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September 17, 2019
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Scott Goree, Executive Director of the Accordion Festival

  • Scott Goree at Jim Boggio's statue

By: Lanny Lowery
August 9, 2019

Although Scott Goree will always be thought of as the Executive Director of the Cotati Accordion Festival, he has been involved in many businesses in Cotati and Santa Rosa during the past half century.

A native Petalumen, Goree graduated from Petaluma High in 1967 and from Sonoma State College in 1971 majoring in political sociology.  Attending SSC during the age of protest, particularly of the Viet Nam War, he led the college’s protest steering committee.  Sonoma State employed him as the campus mailman.  

Goree soon wrote articles for the Sonoma County Bugle, run by a fellow SSC alumni, Michael Funke, who lost his post on the college paper when he introduced the banner motto, “Smash the State.”  Many of Goree’s articles slanted to the left, the counter culture that helped define Sonoma State College in the early years.

After college, Goree described himself as a part-time hanger out who became a full-time hanger out.  He specialized in playing in high-stakes floating poker games in Cotati and Santa Rosa.  

Around this time, he also went into business with Jerome Schwartz who began Jerome’s Good Dogs in Cotati and later with Jerome’s Café and Grill in Petaluma.  Other business interests included Magnolia’s, a Santa Rosa nightclub that provided live music seven nights a week.  Goree owned and managed Magnolia’s until 1996.  He took charge of promotions, booking and scheduling of the bands.  Here he developed the skills and abilities that he employs as Executive Director of the Accordion Festival.

Goree sold Magnolia’s in 1996 and joined Cotati’s Inn of the Beginning as managing general partner.  Due to poor health, he resigned this position in 2000.

Married to Shelly Camacci, the couple also started Green Earth Catering.  They hoped to develop this business at Wolf Den Plaza, but with the death of potential partner Jerome Schwartz in 2007, they did not expand to this venue.

Other business ventures include The Last Great Hiding Place and The Tradewinds.

But Goree’s current venture, The Cotati Accordion Festival, will be his most memorable and best known.

For twenty years, Goree has been an important part of the organizing team.  For the past fourteen years, he has been the Executive Director.

In 2004 the festival was floundering.  He partnered with Eric Kirchmann to resuscitate it.

Linda Connor has partnered with Goree for many years helping to make the festival a success.  Goree says that he could not do the festival without Connor as his co-producer.  Connor reciprocated the compliment saying about Goree, “Scott came in when the festival was floundering on its knees and was just not going to happen any more.  He was responsible for reviving the festival.”

Goree reflected back to the first Cotati Accordion Festival held in 1991 to measure how far it’s come.  He credits Jim Boggio, accordion player extraordinaire, “a man who had a large outgoing personality” and Clifton Buck-Kaufmann, a recording studio entrepreneur, for setting the festival on its way.  As members of the Sonoma Arts Council, these two men applied their music and business acumen to begin this great Cotati tradition.

Goree recalls that the first festival included a parade with the Hubbub Marching Band and some 17 acts each day.  This year’s 29th Accordion Festival, held on Aug. 16, 17 and 18, feature over forty acts.

This festival, described as “a two-day, multi-cultural, multi-generational accordion extravaganza held in La Plaza Park in downtown Cotati.  Festivities begin on Fri. before the festival.  See 40 plus bands on seven stages including the Jam Tent, Polka/Zydeco, two main stages, Accordion’s Apocalypse Stage, Student Stage and Friar Tuck’s Pub.”  The cost is $17 for one day, $27 for two days, and $15 for senior one-day tickets.

Goree explained how this festival gets put together each year.  He said, “It’s an adventure lining up the performers.  It’s a year round project:  contracts completed in the fall, booking of acts in the winter, more contracts in the spring and settling little things such as insurance and permits.”

Co-producer Linda Connor develops the program and the graphics, and she lines up vendors.  Lisa Benz oversees over 100 volunteers.  Arrangements for transportation are coordinated with Cal Trans Park and Ride, the Smart Train station and shuttle service.

Profits from the festival benefit different local organizations:  The Thomas Page Music Program, the Education Foundation, the Cotati-Rohnert Park Nursery School Coop, the Penngrove Elementary School Outdoor Education program and Boy Scout Troop 4 of Cotati.  Volunteers from the Ed Foundation handle ticket booths and the boy scouts help with first aid and garbage.

Goree’s enthusiasm for the program causes him to focus on all the people responsible for the success of the festival.  He points first to Jim Boggio whose reputation helped attract performers from all over the world.  Goree said, “Jim Boggio, based on his reputation people trusted that it would work and be worth doing.”

And performers have spread the news globally.  “Cory Pesaturo plays around the world and is respected around the world; he is our best ambassador,” reports Goree.  And performers come from around the world, notably Europe and even from China twice.  

Maggie Martin puts together the finale and takes care of the social media for the event.

Goree recalls the days when Cotati’s reputation rested on bumper stickers announcing: “Cotati, Land of a Thousand Freaks.”  He remembers many of the characters from the 1970s such as Cotati Dave and Tony the Tiger, the town dog- catcher who, Goree said, walked around town with a pet cougar on a chain.  Now Cotati’s claim to fame is the Cotati Accordion Festival.

Goree, descended from a family that owned a thriving dry cleaning business in Petaluma, made his own mark in these many music ventures where he developed his abilities that he uses today as director of the Cotati Accordion Festival.  He also volunteers over 500 hours at COTS of Petaluma and for other organizations.

He and his wife live in the family home in Petaluma.  They have two adult daughters who have both been involved with the festival since they were children.

At the age of 70, Goree does not see leaving the festival any time soon.  “I don’t have any reason.  I still have the energy as long as I enjoy doing it.  I might still be relevant for a few more years.  My identity is to be in the music world.”