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Cortez Commercial Fishing Fest returns to old location

It has been the same relished routine for decades.

But one of Manatee County’s most beloved events will look significantly different this year.

The 29th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival will still draw thousands of revelers to historic Cortez fishing village this weekend.

Attendees of all ages will gather on the east, though, as opposed to the west end of the community, where the festival had been held for more than 20 years.

Organizers see it as trip back to their roots on the east side.

“The first two festivals were at this location,” said Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival Chair Linda Molto.

“It actually has more space than we had before. It’s more spread out and we hope the crowds will spread out, too.”

The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“Last year we had an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people come over two days and are hoping for even more this year,” Molto said.

The festival grounds are adjacent to the FISH Preserve (95 acres of environmentally sensitive land along the Sarasota Bay shoreline). Fitting, considering all festival proceeds fund the purchase, expansion and restoration of the Preserve.

New grounds include the Florida Maritime Museum, an excellent place to learn about the rich commercial fishing heritage of Cortez.

The move also means a second stage for live music.

The main stage will feature popular local acts such as the Billy Rice Band ( 4 p.m. Sat.), Razing Cane (2:30 p.m. Sat.), Eric Von Hahmann (1 p.m. Sat; 3 p.m. Sun.), Loretta James Band ( 4 p.m. Sun.) and Dr. Dave Band (2:30 p.m. Sun.).

A second stage, the old Burton Store Porch on the grounds of the Florida Maritime Museum will feature acoustic artists who will offer a variety of folk, country and traditional maritime songs.

The new location also boasts additional parking just east of the festival grounds.

To find the festival, head west toward the beaches on Cortez Road at 4415 119th St. W., Bradenton. Admission is $2; free for children younger than 12.

Offsite parking available at Cortez Commons shopping mall parking lot at the corner of Cortez Road and 59th Street, 5584 Cortez Road, Bradenton. A shuttle bus also runs from Coquina Beach ($2 round trip).

Additional parking will be available east of the village off of Cortez Road (5-minute walk). For more information call (941) 708-6121 or visit www.cortez-fish.org.

--Wade Tatangelo

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