Ready to party Cortez style? 37th annual fishing festival happens this weekend

This weekend, it’s time to party Cortez style at the 37th annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

The community tradition features lots of tasty seafood and two days full of live music set in the heart of the historic fishing village.

Here are a few things to know before you go.

The annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival draws big crowds with seafood and live music. Bradenton Herald file photo

Location and admission

This year’s festival will be held adjacent to the Florida Maritime Museum at the eastern end of Cortez.

Festival hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Organizers say the event averages 20,000 attendants.

Limited parking is available throughout the village, including a free parking lot on the east side and several paid lots.

Alternatively, festival goers can park at G. T. Bray Park (5502 33rd Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton) and catch a shuttle to Cortez for $1.50 each way.

Islanders can catch a free trolley to the festival from the Coquina Beach parking lot on Anna Maria Island.

Festival admission is $4; children ages 11 and under are free.

If you’re interested in a closer look at the town’s history, make sure to stop by the Florida Maritime Museum. Admission is always free.

The Eric Von Band, a country act fronted by Cortez native Eric von Hahmann, will perform Saturday at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. Hahmann will also play a solo set on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Provided photo

Music lineup

This year’s lineup is packed with local talent. Here’s who will play:


10-11 a.m.: Shanty Singers

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: Doug Demming

1-1:30 p.m.: Awards and Introductions

2-4 p.m.: Eric Von Band

4:30-6 p.m.: Koto Ray Show


10:30 a.m.-noon: Soupy Davis and his Band

12:30-2 p.m.: Ted Stevens & the Doo Shots

2:30-4 p.m.: Jason Haram

4:30-6 pm: Karen and Jimmy Band

Sunday on the Bratton Store porch at Florida Maritime Museum from 1-5 p.m.: Eric Von

Crawfish, or “mud bugs,” are a popular victual at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. Bradenton Herald file photo

Food vendors

Prepare your taste buds; it’s going to be a delicious ride.

This year’s festival will welcome 19 food vendors cooking up a smorgasbord of the ocean’s bounty.

Fresh seafood offerings will include mullet, clams, crab, shrimp, crawfish, grouper and lobster.

Mac and cheese, barbecue, hamburgers and Greek food are also on the menu.

For something sweet, pick from doughnuts, crepes, strawberry shortcake, homemade ice cream and more.

Pelicans hanging out on the docks of Cortez Village during a past Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. Bradenton Herald file photo


The weather is looking perfect for outdoor activities this weekend, with highs forecast to be in the 70s and comfortably cool lows.

Rain chances are slim on Saturday and Sunday.

An aerial view of F.I.S.H. Preserve in Cortez. Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage

What it’s all about

Since its inception, Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival has been a fun way of preserving the unique culture of Cortez.

The village’s role as a fishing capital dates back hundreds of years, and it’s one of the few active Florida fishing villages remaining today.

Currently, the festival benefits a special cause. Proceeds go to support Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, a local non-profit.

The organization is working to maintain and expand F.I.S.H. Preserve, one of the only remaining pieces of undeveloped coastline in Manatee County.

This weekend, you can help preserve the cultural and environmental legacy of the Florida gem, and stuff your face with delicious food at the same time.

It’s the Cortez way to party.

Ryan Ballogg covers arts, entertainment, dining, breaking and local news for the Bradenton Herald. He won first place for feature writing in the Florida Press Club’s 2018 Excellence in Journalism Competition. Ryan is a Florida native and graduated from University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
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