An Accordion Player accompanying Las Lluvias del Norte at the International Accordion Festival. Photo by Scott Ball.

Musicians, dancers, and local listeners gathered for the 14th annual International Accordion Festival at La Villita Saturday night.

The free festival is aimed right at music-loving families and enthusiasts from great distances. The festival celebrates the diverse tradition of the accordion, an instrument that far too often goes unnoticed. Buzzing squeezebox performances were dispersed all over the historic village grounds, including the Arneson River Theatre and Maverick Plaza.

Food trucks of  diverse cuisine lined the main corridor in between the historic shops, while beverage stands seemed to always be in close proximity. Dancing couples came out of the woodwork, lured by the upbeat accordion play. In other words, there was no shortage of the waltz or the famous two-step.

I spoke with Mitch Hill, a member of the board of directors, about the history and funding of a free event such as this one. Hill said the event had some rough patches after losing Southwest Airlines as a sponsor, but since then has evolved into  more local happening, less dependent on a single sponsor. With support from H-E-B, Lake/Flato and others, this music festival has hit its stride and earned its space in the spotlight.

Asked about his most rewarding experience over the past six years on the board, Hill said, “San Antonio is already a really well-cultured town, but everybody gets together for this thing, and that’s something special.”

The accordion has its place in all genres of music: polka, Tejano, classical, and even heavy metal. It’s hard not to smile when you see the bellows of the giant keyed instrument huffing and puffing to the rhythm of the players’ knees. The accordion depends on entire body movement to produce the unique howl. It’s a bit strange, yet you can’t turn away.

After attending this festival, I have a new respect for the instrument, the history, and the feeling it gives so many of our citizens. Happiness.

Corrections of two captioned photos have been added. 

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Scott Ball

Scott Ball is San Antonio Report's photo editor and grew up in San Antonio.