A lot of Bradenton residents make it a habit to attend the Cortez Stone Crab festival every year.
Erin Rae Pirong comes every year, too, but she has to put out a bit more effort than locals do.
“I live in Broward County, on the east coast,” she said. “I come every year. There’s nothing like this on the east coast. The west coast is very different from the east coast.”
Pirong had some company with her this year, someone who was making her first visit to the Cortez Stone Crab Festival. Her 9-month-old daughter, Breanna Rea, was with her. Mother and daughter swayed to the blues music coming from the Jason Haram Group on the festival stage Saturday afternoon.
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It was the first day of the two-day festival, which continues Sunday around Swordfish Grill in Cortez. The music lineup for Sunday includes popular regional acts Twinkle & Rock Soul Radio and Nobody’s Fool.
Breanna Rea Pirong wasn’t the only youngster who was enjoying the Jason Haram Group on Sunday. Three-year-old Ny’lah Redding of Bradenton was making her first visit to the festival. She was there with her grandmother, Delacey Kashaw, who attends most years. Ny’lah got her face painted, danced to the blues music and took a pony ride in the kids zone.
The reason for the festival, which is now in its fifth year, is the beginning of stone crab season in Florida.
Lots of people were partaking of the stone crab claws, pulled straight from the waters off of Cortez Fishing Village, but there will be plenty left for second-day visitors on Sunday. The people from Swordfish Grill promise “stone crab, stone crab and more stone crab.”
I come every year. There’s nothing like this on the east coast.
Broward County resident Erin Rae Pirong
There’s also a beer tent, and lots of local vendors selling hand-made items.
Bradenton’s Janine Murray has had a booth at the festival every year since the beginning. She has an online business called Island Images by Janine, and she brings her ocean-themed creations to various events. The Cortez Stone Crab Festival is one her favorites.
Among the items in the Island Images booth were her hand-painted glass boxes that turn into night lights and decorative ceramic tiles created by her husband, Peter Murray.
Sales were brisk for Murray, but she said that last year her stuff sold well on Saturday, but that Sunday was terrible.
At a nearby booth, Dottie Drevyanko was not faring so well. She was selling hand-made wreaths and other Christmas items from her business, The Princess Loft, but no one was buying. As the day was drawing to a close, she hadn’t sold a single item.
It’s a nice experience being out here. Everyone is so nice. I’m a nice person and I like meeting nice people. The music’s great and the food’s fantastic. It’s been wonderful.
“Everybody says how beautiful they are, and how pretty, but no one is even asking about the price,” she said. “I guess people aren’t thinking about Christmas yet, when it’s 80 degrees. But they should be. It’s only 50 days away.”
She would like to make some money on Sunday, she said, but if she doesn’t, it’s still OK with her.
“I’m just happy to be here,” she said. “It’s a nice experience being out here. Everyone is so nice. I’m a nice person, and I like meeting nice people. The music’s great and the food’s fantastic. It’s been wonderful.”