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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Cortez fishing festival this weekend

For an historic village celebrating its heritage this weekend, there's quite a bit new for the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

The old Miller dock is new, rebuilt to its original utility stretching maybe 80 feet into the bay. The big raffle prize is a brand new Coquina skiff built by hand by volunteer craftsmen. And the newest in Cortez films will be shown.

The 22nd annual festival will be Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21-22, in the fishing village at the mainland end of the Cortez Bridge. Admission is $2 per person, parking is along the village streets or at Coquina Beach or the Winn-Dixie lot at 7400 Cortez Road, with shuttle buses all day between the remote parking lots and the festival gate. New this year, hours of the festival will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, although Sunday will be quiet until 1 p.m. s far as music goes.

Proceeds will go toward making the final payment of $63,000 on the FISH Preserve. That is the 95-acre buffer between Cortez and unwanted development, which Cortezians are buying through their Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.

Cortez is one of the very few Florida fishing villages still pretty much in their historic condition, with small houses and businesses and commercial fish houses, all built by the Gulf's fish and mostly by mullet. The great mullet industry ended when inshore net fishing was banned 1995 by statewide referendum, but the fishing tradition goes on.

Among the many features of the festival will be Cortez people cooking the traditional Cortez fish. Another gastronomical favorite will be strawberry shortcake baked by members of the Cortez Village Historical Society.

Other food will range from seafood to Caribbean to barbecue to chocolate pastries, not forgetting hamburgers for finicky kids.

Children will have their own fun there, in games and rides and live sea critters. There will be displays of arts and crafts and boat rides and displays of village history, including the latest in Cortez films in the Cortez Community Center.

Music has always been a vital part of life in Cortez, and this year's festival will emphasize that too. The Richard Culbreath Group of Cortez musicians will be prominent both days, along with such entertainment luminaries as Tim Chandler and Edge-Wise, Country Spice Band, Sunshine Express Cloggers and the Anna Maria String Band.

Among the raffle prizes will be a handmade quilt, a weekend for two at Palm Island, paintings and other artworks.

The biggest prizes of all remain the village itself, its friendly people, its picturesque working waterfront with dozens of fishing boats, the pristine FISH Preserve, the mangrove islets offshore and especially Cortez Key, the largest brown pelican rookery on Florida's Gulf coast.

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