This past weekend, the La Plaza Park, burst into life with the 27th annual Cotati Accordion festival. For two days, the park was filled with music, dancing and good times.
This year, the festival featured 22 different acts. The performers ranged from solo accordionists to full-fledged bands. Each performance featured the accordion in a variety of styles ranging from polka to classical. Like the performers themselves, the songs they played hailed from cultures from around the world.
Perhaps the most unique performer at the festival, The Great Morgani appeared in Cotati for the 18th year. Known for his crazy costumes, Morgani did not disappoint with four performances each showcasing a different outlandish getup. As Morgani himself claims, “I’m from another planet”.
Morgani, also known as Frank Lima, started out as a stockbroker after graduating high school. After 18 years, Morgani retired at the age of 35.
“It was a stressful job”, said Morgani. “I needed to get out.”
After a while, Morgani came out of retirement and began performing the accordion which he has been playing for 66 years.
“I was bored”, said Morgani on his career change. “I needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning”.
As of now, Morgani has been performing for 21 years. He currently has 29 accordions and 150 handmade costumes in his collection.
Another wacky performance was the AlpenBand California. Dressed in lederhosen, this five-man-band quickly got the entire audience moving and dancing with traditional German folk music.
Following the AlpenBand was Cory Pesaturo. A superstar in the accordion world, Pesaturo has won various awards and achievements for his playing. His most recent accomplishment is holding the world record for consecutive accordion playing at 32 hours.
Pesaturo quickly wowed the crowd with his electric accordion and flashy performance. He also mixed up his repertoire with acoustic accordion songs and made sure to include a tribute to accordion legend Dick Contino, who passed away this April.
One noteworthy act was the Truccos, a father-son duo consisting of Steve and Michael Trucco from Stockton, California. Together, they have been playing for 35 years. However, the elder Steve has been playing the accordion for 68 years. They specialize in duets and have developed a unique playing style.
Not all acts were just polkas and European songs. Some performances showcased Latin playing styles. One of these acts were the band En Canto, which played Brazilian music.
According to the band, their music is made for dancing and incorporates African rhythms with European melodies.
The festival attracts accordion players from around the world. This year, Tiia Karttunen and Ljubinka Kulisic, hailing from Finland and Serbia respectively, were featured at the festival. Both women stole the main stage with their masterful playing. For Karttunen, this year’s festival marks the first time she has been to America.
On both days, the festival held the annual Lady of Spain-A-Ring. During this event, attendees with accordions are invited to stand in front of the stage to play “Lady of Spain” all together.
This year’s festival was co-produced by Linda Conner, who has been producing the festival since 2005. She, however, has been involved with the festival since 1991.
“I like music and I love the accordion”, said Conner. “I love the accordion and the community that developed around it in Cotati.”
“I think the musician lineup was great”, said Conner about this year’s festival. “The weather was a little wet for us, but people had a lot of fun. How do you measure success?”
On Sunday, the festival ended with the Grand Finale. Directed by the master of ceremonies, Maggie Martin, this spectacular performance had 10 accordionists on the main stage including Pesaturo, Kartttunen, and Kulisic. Each participant had chosen a song based on this year’s theme of the Year of the Woman that would all play together.