It's possible that not everyone in the world knows where Cotati is, but for the country's top accordion players and their fans, the town is definitely on the map.
More than 5,000 squeezebox buffs show up at La Plaza Park every year for the Cotati Accordion Festival, which stages its 19th annual bash this weekend.
"We get fans from all over. For a lot of people, we're the point of destination for their summer vacation," said Scott Goree, the festival's director. "They come to Cotati in their RVs, just to see the Accordion Festival. It's a tradition for them, and we get a lot of new people every year."
The festival also enjoys a great reputation among accordion players of all styles, from polka to Zydeco to jazz. "All of the best accordion players in the U.S. have played here," Goree said.
This year, the festival reaches beyond America's borders to feature Kepa Junkera, a popular Basque folk and world music accordionist from Spain, for the first time.
"Junkera just happened to be recording in a studio in Marin County," Goree explained. "He heard about the festival and asked if he could come up and play. It's a pretty special thing, because we never could have been able to bring him over from Spain. It just would have been out of the question, budget-wise."
The festival also has its mainstay acts, including Santa Cruz street performer Frank Lima, alias The Great Morgani, whose colorful and fanciful costumes conceal his face.
"The Great Morgani has been playing every year forever," Goree said. "He's an act that defines the festival for a lot of people. Everybody takes pictures with him."
Once the mysterious Morgani doffs his costume, however, he disappears into the throng.
"No one has any idea who he is as he walks through the crowd," Goree added.
The Great Morgani's modesty is typical of accordionists. Part of the festival's perennial appeal is the basic good humor and humility of the performers, the director explained.
"The bands are so easy to deal with, because there's no attitude. People don't have visions of becoming rock stars for playing the accordion," Goree said.
"They're mainly obsessed with playing, and having fun doing it."
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or email@example.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.pressdemocrat.com.
What: 19th Cotati Accordion Festival
Who: Los Texmaniacs, Frank Marocco, Those Darn Accordions and two dozen other acts, including Big Lou's Polka Casserole.
When: 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 22-23)
Where: La Plaza Park, Cotati
Admission: $15 advance/$17 gate; $25 both days; children 15 and under free when accompanied by an adult.
Information: 664-0444, cotatifest.com
From Sonoma Magazine: Summer of Love: Two Sonoma communes' psychedelic rise and fall