Clog dancing, smoked mullet and fish chowder were among the big draws at the first Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.
Organizers were hoping a few hundred folks would show up for the single day event.
More than a thousand people visited the historic fishing village to nosh on fresh seafood and enjoy the views of Sarasota Bay.
By noon, nearly all the delicious food was gone.
Jump forward three decades.
This weekend 20,000-25,000 people are expected at Cortez’s signature event.
Visitors are being welcomed to help the Cortezians celebrate their love of marine life and heritage.
Organizers promise an abundance of food, fun and family entertainment at the 30th anniversary bash.
Festivalgoers will be treated to plenty of seafood plus other dishes, a variety of live music (see sidebar), clog dancing, boat rides and marine life exhibits.
A nautical arts and crafts show, tours and displays on local marine life as well as the commercial fishing industry are also part of the event.
Also, visitors are reminded to bring their cameras: Magnificent bird life abounds and the marine life touch tank often results in outbursts of joy by children of all ages.
Many people come to simply enjoy the ambiance of the quaint fishing village settled more than 120 years ago.
All festival proceeds are committed to purchasing 95 acres of environmentally sensitive mangrove wetlands located immediately east of the village in the what is known as The FISH Preserve.
Famed ocean-explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau has endorsed this mission.
The area is one of the lastundeveloped shorelines found in Sarasota Bay.
This is the second year that the festival is being held in its new location, near the Cortez Kitchen.
IF YOU GO: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 18-19. To find the festival, head west toward the beaches on Cortez Road at 4415 119th St. W., Bradenton. Admission: $3; children under age 12 are free. Offsite parking available at G.T. Bray Park overflow parking, 5502 33rd Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton, or at Coquina Beach with shuttle bus to Cortez ($2.50 round trip). Additional parking will be available east of the village off of Cortez Road (5 minute walk). Information: 941-708-6120 or www.cortez-fish.org.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Visit heraldbuzzworthy.blogspot.com.