Accordion Festival goes international
Players from China, Italy and Russia add flavor to annual event driven by local volunteers
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By Dave Williams  August 7, 2014 11:33 am

From a distance, you hear the faint sounds of polka music. After a while, the unmistakable beat of zydeco tunes pulse through you. And before long, punk rock (?) fills the air.

If all three types of sounds are coming from one place, it can mean only one thing – the Cotati Accordion Festival is in full swing. The 24th annual Cotati Accordion Festival takes place Aug. 16-17 and will have more of an international flavor than ever before. 

Artists from China, Russia and Italy will all grace the bandstand at La Plaza Park, which has become a mecca for accordion players and enthusiasts alike. 

Of course, the legendary Dick Contino, one of the festival’s all-time favorite performers, will play both days. Another fan favorite, the Great Morgani, will be on hand to display a new collection of zany outfits. Each year Morgani manages to outdo himself with his costumes.


Something for everybody

Those with the urge to dance to polka music will hear one of the best in the Steve Balich Sr. Polka Band in the polka tent from 1-5 p.m. both days. Jim Gilman (9:30-11 a.m.) and Chuck Berger 11 a.m.-noon) also will be performing in the polka tent on both days. After Balich is finished, the more upbeat The Wild Catahoulas will play for about an hour in the polka tent both days.

Nothing, however, happens at the CAF until the Golden State Accordion Club Band takes the stage at 9:45 a.m. on both days.

CAF producer Scott Goree put special emphasis this year on bringing in acts from around the globe, which further enhances the festival’s reputation as a multicultural event.

“In the past, we’ve always had a multicultural thing where a lot of ethnic groups and nationalities are represented,” Goree said. “But this year we have a cavalcade of stars where we actually have people coming from other countries. For example, we have a player coming from China (20-year-old Tian Jia-Nan). We’ve had Asian players, but to actually have someone from mainland China is an example of how we’ve been able to branch out around the world and get people from foreign countries to come here.”

Trio Voronezh is a trio from Russia who’ll be on stage at 2:35 p.m. Aug. 17. The diverse repertoire of the trio includes the works of Vivaldi, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Rachmaninov, as well as Russian folk songs, Argentine tangos, gypsy dance music, bluegrass and popular songs by Gershwin.

“The three Russian fellows all live in Oregon now, but all three were raised in Russia,” “We feel like we’ve expanded the festival around the world.”

Brazilian virtuoso Lulinha Allencar was scheduled to perform this year, but, according to Goree, strange circumstances prevented him from attending.


National treasure stays put

Goree said Allencar’s management informed him he would not be granted a visa to travel to the United States. Allencar apparently has relatives in the United States, and Brazil, which considers him a national artistic treasure, feared he would not return.

Still, there will be a touch of Brazil in the form of Rob Curto from the band Matuto, whose parents are Brazilian.

The CAF may tout itself as a multicultural and international event, but it would be nothing without the contributions of a vast number of volunteers and local businesses. 

Everyone working at the CAF does it on a volunteer basis. And all the proceeds go to local non-profit organizations.

The festival is the largest cash donor for the Cotati-Rohnert Park Education Foundation.

This year in particular, according to co-producer Linda Conner, more local businesses have stepped up to become involved with the CAF.

“One of my joys is seeing how community members keep coming forward year after year asking, ‘How can we help…we want to get involved.’ The CAF is a true community endeavor. We are staffed by hundreds of volunteers from seven different service organizations. This year, we’ve added the Rohnert Park Piranha Swim Team and Rancho Cotati Little League.”


New businesses join the party

One of the new businesses to come on board is Petaluma Poultry, with whom the CAF has been working on cross promotions. Petaluma Poultry ponied up $5,000 to the CAF cause. Also, True Value Hardware Store of Cotati and Rohnert Park Transmissions are businesses that are new to the festival. 

Parking has been a thorny issue for the festival in years past, with only street parking available. 

Street parking will remain available, but this year the CAF has contracted to use the Cal Trans parking lot at the north end of Cotati at the corner of Old Redwood Highway and St. Joseph’s way. There are 162 spaces available, and the CAF will be running a free shuttle from that lot to La Plaza park.

Also, there are two handicapped parking areas: 102-104 W. Cotati Ave. (right behind the vendor gate and kitty cornered from Korean Baptist Church) and 81 West Cotati in front of the Korean Baptist Church. Tickets for the CAF are available online at Tickets are $15 for one day and $25 for both days.

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