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Accordionists are Lodi Grape Festival Favorites

"Accordionists are Lodi Grape Festival Favorites." Emmons County Record, 7 November 2000.


Emil Knapp of Lodi, Calif., above, returned to the Linton area in September to visit his family and friends. A family gathering was held and many friends gathered for a social time hosted by the Happy Hour of Linton and two of Emil's nephews, Reuben Schatz and Alvin Schatz, both of Linton. The entertainment was provided by none other than Emil Knapp, Reuben Schatz, Alvin Tschosik of Linton and Alvin Gross of Napoleon. Emil is a brother of Bertha Bender of Lincoln and John Knapp of Strasburg Care Center.

A pair of popular accordionists were the headliners Sept. 15 at the Senior Day program of the Lodi (Calif.) Grape Festival – again.

Returning to a venue they enjoy was Emil Knapp, 85, with his electronic accordion, and Don Sommerfeld, 60, with his German band, favorites of prime time festival-goers who will be able to walk through the gates that day without paying any admission fee. Knapp, a retired worker for the former Super Mold plant, has been a fixture at Senior Day programs for a decade. He moved to Lodi in 1936, a few years after he started performing on the trumpet in his home town of Linton.

It was not hard for him to gain skill on the accordion, he says. He has 10 musically inclined siblings and parents who played the pump organ. Knapp plays at three or four functions a month. In addition to appearing Thursday night at Stockton Elks Lodge dinners, "I’ve played in every bar in town," he jokes. He also is a regular accordionist at Sacramento Octoberfest celebrations.

His repertoire includes a few of the traditional polkas and waltzes, mainly other musical standards.

"I play everything except rock and roll," says Knapp. He leaves that to son, Dallas, an organ player.

He played straight accordion before switching to the electronic version 15 years ago.

Sommerfeld, a retired Lodi Unified School District elementary teacher, has led his own German band in Lodi since 1962, two years after he moved to the area with his parents. But he has received major recognition in Lodi only in the last four or five years, he notes. Out-of-town performances have led to more local ones, he notes.

He switched from the trumpet to the accordion to help pay his way through Sacramento State.

His largest audience was at an Octoberfest celebration in Medford, Ore., in 1973, he recalls. This had extensive radio and newspaper coverage and Octoberfest queens were flown down from Oregon.

Reprinted with the permission of the Emmons County Record.

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