Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival draws thousands with food, music

Thousands pack village for Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival

jdeleon@bradenton.comFebruary 16, 2014 

CORTEZ -- It was "summertime in northern Bradenton" on Saturday afternoon, as one Cortezian sang.

"Thanking God, it's good to be back in Cortez," he sang as the crowd cheered.

Pat and Susan Staehler were among the many gathered enjoying Eric Von Hahmann's performance that included original and cover songs.

"We love it," the couple said in unison.

"The music is great," she said. "We think we have heard him before and really like him."

Von Hahmann, born and raised in Cortez, can in fact be regularly heard at Cortez Kitchen.

Thousands came out to the first of two days of the 33rd annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival enjoying fresh seafood, good local music, good weather and good times.

For many like Pat and Susan Staehler, the festival is a yearly tradition.

"We actually look forward to this festival every year," she said. "We can't come to Florida and not come."

For about five years now, the couple from Ohio spends a few months of the year on Anna Maria Island.

It isn't just the music that draws

them, but the food.

"We always get the crab cakes," she said. "We did expand this time and get the popcorn, and we also had some fries."

They love it so much, they may come back Sunday.

"We might," she said. "Last year we came both days.

Douglas Skinner was just sitting enjoying a beer while he watched all the fun around him.

"It's real nice, just sitting here relaxed," Skinner said.

Staying on Anna Maria Island, Skinner attends the festival yearly during his visit down from the Chicago area.

"I'll be back tomorrow with my wife and daughter," Skinner said. "I just came over to see how things were going."

Steps away from the music and food, the festival also featured dozens of arts and craft booths for festival-goers.

For Joni Fintel, browsing the booths and shopping is her favorite part of the annual event.

"I make my rounds and then I decide," Fintel said. "It's usually a piece of jewelry."

Other than the shopping, Fintel enjoys seeing people she hasn't seen for a while.

"I love it, we come every year," Fintel said.

Mike Fondy was having a ball, he said, as he sipped on a beer and waited for his family to get drinks. "We haven't been here but 30 minutes but we already tried some delicious fish tacos," Fondy said. "We got the kids some T-shirts from the Wildlife Conservation and saw a hawk."

The family had already checked out some kids' rides, trying to pack in all the fun.

"At this particular festival, it's my first time," Fondy said.

The family, from Dayton, Ohio, makes regular trips down to Anna Maria Island two to three times a year.

For Marsha House, it was also her first time at the event.

"It's a wonderful festival," House said. "Being from Kentucky, we don't get the fresh fish like you do here."

Not usually a big seafood lover, she was amazed by how wonderful all the food looked.

"People have been gracious enough to give us tastes," House said.

The crowds also impressed her, she said.

"We are staying over on Anna Maria Island and last night we had dinner at Cortez Kitchen," House said. "We saw all the preparations and so at noon today we decided to drive down and see."

Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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