By Kay Kipling
In 1981, some 500 people strolled the quiet streets of Cortez fishing village in Manatee County for the first-ever Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. More than 30 years later, the festival, set this year for Feb. 16 and 17, packs in more than 25,000 visitors who listen to live music, gawk at arts, crafts and environmental exhibits, and, of course, dive into that fresh, famous Florida seafood. Proceeds support F.I.S.H., the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, which preserves sensitive lands nearby and continues to restore historic buildings in the tiny village. And oh, my, is that smoked mullet tasty. For more info, head to cortez-fish.org/fishing-festival or call (941) 254-4972.