Take a trip down memory lane with this accounting of the ...
History of the First Cotati Accordion Festival
Written by Virginia Sager Jansen in 1991
Original Accordion Festival Committee: Left to Right. Back Row: Eric Kirchmann, Rebecca Browne, Jim Boggio, Marian Kelly, Linda Rook, Pat Vulgaris, Vivian Weissenburger, Barbara Harris. Front Row: Richard Cullinen, Clifton Buck-Kauffman, Keith Blackstone. Not present: Steve Balich, John Olsson and Sean O'Connell (photographer).
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO make a successful musical festival with a unique concept? When asked to write the history of the first Cotati Accordion Festival, this writer went to the two men responsible for the origination of this event: Clifton Buck-Kauffman and Jim Boggio. It didn't take long to discover exactly “what it takes”: imagination, great talent, commitment to community service, involving important support groups, and acquiring the help of a dedicated volunteer committee. The job demanded hours of work each day for some three months on the part of Buck-Kauffman and Boggio; and yes, the “calling in of favors” from good friends and business associates. It took innovation (and in this writer's judgment, courage!) as initially, there was no money. Most importantly, it was because of the love of and respect for the accordian and Cotati, that this festival came into being.
Jim Boggio is a well-known, local, musical artist; band leader; pianist; instrumentalist, with the accordion being his specialty; and producer of shows – “among other things.”
Boggio recorded an accordion album, Accordion to the Blues at the Cotati-based recording company, Prairie Sun Studios. Now, it SO happened that a co-owner of these studios was Clifton Buck-Kauffman, a longtime Cotatian. (Incidentally, Clifton's grandparents were the Legarretas, early Cotati chicken ranchers. The studios are on the site of the old hatchery.)
Buck-Kauffman thrives on civic involvement: City of Cotati Community Service Commission (1991 Chair); Cotati Chamber of Commerce (Board Member); Cultural Arts Council of Sonoma County (1993 Prexy); a booster of a wide range of local civic activities among other things. Get these two men together and things happen!
When Buck-Kauffman heard Boggio’s accordion album, he was dazzled. The multicultural diversity of accordion music triggered his imagination! Following the recording session, the two men were talking things over at the Tradewinds (a local watering hole in downtown Cotati.) Buck-Kauffman asked Boggio, “What do you think of the idea of having a Cotati Accordion Festival?” Both men grinned - Boggio “loving the idea.” Once the latter realized Buck-Kauffman was serious, he was off and running. The two made a deal: Boggio would be handling the musical end securing the musicians, planning the program, orchestrating the entire musical production and so on. Buck-Kauffman would handle the rest: staging; arranging for the sound equipment, posters, banners and signs; T-shirt sales; vendor booths, etc. As with any community endeavor, funding was a problem. Buck-Kauffman put it this way: “As for obtaining the services of the performers that first year, it was difficult finding people who were willing to work for almost nothing. (Now, musicians are piling out of the woodwork - everybody wants to play the Cotati Festival.)” For financial help, Buck-Kauffman turned to the organizations he served: the City of Cotati, the Chamber, and Sonoma County's Cultural Arts Council. The coordination and cooperation of these three groups were the needed dynamics that guaranteed the first festival’s success. Private contributions were solicited. A local man, Dr. Richard Gaston, donated $500 toward the event. When one gets support from people like that ... those who just believe in an idea ... “I can recall that day to this day!” Buck-Kauffman and Boggio, however, bore the major burden of the costs. Out-of-pocket money, coupled with donated performance/work time, respectively, added up to a hefty sum.
Buck-Kauffman and Boggio credit several persons for having worked “above and beyond”: Rebecca Browne (currently Cotati's Chamber of Commerce President) handled the printing of the program booklets, copy and advertising. Tom Torriglia, was/is a San Francisco-based public relations man, and a leader of the well-known bay area group, Tlwse Darn Accordions. It was Torriglia who arranged the extensive publicity resulting in unprecedented attendance for such an event held in Cotati. Barbara Harris was/is Executive Director of the Cultural Arts Council of Sonoma County. It was at her suggestion that the festival be not a one day affair, but two. She also gave of her expertise and energy. Lou Soper, first president of the Bay Area Accordion Club, contributed much to the production end of the event. Boggio was/is a member of the Bay Area Accordion Club and as such called upon many of that group for help. Behind-the-scene support came from Marian Kelly, Peter DiBono and the membership in general. Pat Ryan and Stanley Mouse, artists, created the design for the posters and T-shirts, respectively. Al and Carla Hines of Hines Signs in Cotati did the banners and signs. Guy and Susie Dynek of Paragon believed in the project to the extent that they “advanced” the cost of the T-shirts. A committee of some eighteen additional local volunteers gave much time and energy to make this project a success. Additionally, the City of Cotati generously allowed the Festival to take place in La Plaza Park, which helped bring back the street festival ambiance for which Cotati is well known. Each day they opened the event with an accordion parade. At one point in the show accordionists at large were invited to join in a Lady of Spain-A-Ring, an event in which all present could join in the playing of Lady of Spain (in the key of C).
The Cotati festival was presented as a community service, free to the public. It was held in the downtown plaza under the oaks. The response was overwhelming. “We were amazed at the reception and response to our idea. It tickled the fancy of music lovers locally, nationally and internationally!” recalled Buck-Kauffman. Boggio put it a different way, “The thing that struck me was all those smiling faces. People of all ages dancing, listening, tapping their feet — all with smiles on their faces.”
Much to the elation of those responsible (and to the surprise of the skeptics) the first outdoor Cotati Accordion Festival was conducted and concluded on a highly successful note.