The smiling accordionist at the entrance to Cotati's La Plaza Park is just the right size for a five-year-old greatgranddaughter to climb on. Hannah immediately warmed to Big Jim Boggio and his squeeze box. After browsing the booths of clothing, fancy masks, lapidary samples, accordions and jewelry for sale (lots and lots of accordions and gear), we found a perch next to the park's playground, where we could keep and eye on the stages and on Hannah simultaneously.
Cory Pesaturo This is the nineteenth year for this annual festival, a major fundraiser for school music programs for the area. The program told us that accordion music has traditionally been a favorite among the farmers and dairy ranchers in this primarily agricultural region of southern Sonoma County.
We can take with a grain of salt the claim that milking cows strengthens the accordionist's fingers, but whatever the reason, the musicians made their instruments perform with astonishing versatility and the dancers danced tirelessly. We heard -- in addition to polkas -- tangos and blues and bluegrass, folk music from Mexico, Germany and France.
We learned that you can polka to just about everything.
Enjoying polka time In addition to the main stage, a separate tent hosted an afternoon's worth of polka dancing -- by the time we left, in early afternoon, the floor was filled with twirling couples.
While the musicians played, several couples danced in the space in front of the stage, and more, judging by their dress, had come prepared to dance as well. The median age of the audience seemed to be on the mature side, but there were families of all ages.
For the children, the playground offered a chance to let off steam, and the face-painting lady allowed Hannah to channel her inner cheetah.
When Big Lou and her Polka Casserole switched from polkas and began playing Hava Nagila, an impromptu Hora group formed, growing larger as people attached themselves to each end of the line.
The Great Morgani Cory Pesaturo, the first accordion major to graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, was introduced as "straight from his award-winning performance in Montana". "They're still talking about him in Montana", the emcee announced. His flying fingers were a crowd-pleaser, and the variety of his music was appreciated by the crowd.
Perhaps the strangest act, apparently a regular at the festival, was the Great Morgani, who appears each year in an elaborate full-length, full-cover disguise.
On the way back to the car we stopped at the entrance to the Friar Tuck pub, where the afternoon accordion zydeco concert was just beginning. It was very loud, but enthusiastic.
We decided it was a pleasant way to enjoy a summer day -- just the right temperature, slight breeze, music and dancing to watch, and slide and swings for little girls.