In Cortez, a nod to history; festival continues today

CORTEZ -- Walking through the Florida Maritime Museum, Michael Coleman couldn’t help himself from touching every ship he saw and asking questions about how they worked.

“They have awesome stuff,” said Michael, 5. “I like ships because they are so cool.”

He was one of the thousands who took in all the maritime attractions at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on Saturday.

In its 29th year, the festival celebrates the long tradition of fishermen who have made a living off the waters in Cortez. These days the event is synonymous with packed buses getting in and out of the event, and throngs of people looking for the best sea food and crafts.

An underlying theme, however, has always been history and preservation.

Proceeds from the two-day festival will go to the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage preserve.

“It’s great,” said Nicole Coleman, 32. “This is our first one and just to learn and to be with our family.”

It was through books, recipes, shirts and posters that Mary Fulford Green did her best to share the cause and history of Cortez to anyone who stopped by her booth.

She weaved stories about her childhood with her views on fishing.

Carol Miller was fascinated by Green’s stories.

“I didn’t know this place was here. It’s unique,” Miller, 64, of Tampa, said as she listened to Green’s stories of growing up in the area. “I bought a poster because I want to support it.”

Many people just came to the festival to relax and enjoy the fresh seafood.

For Rosemary Velozzi, it was a nice change from what she normally gets in New York.

“I came for the fish. It’s been good. This is different than where we come from,” said Velozzi, 63, of Rochester, N.Y.

For Margaret Bush coming to the festival is simply a tradition.

“It’s more compact this year and a lot more crowded, but we live close by and we wanted to support the community,” she said.

The event continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at 4600 124th St. W. Admission is $2 and free for children under 12.