34th annual Concertina Bowl returns to Blainbrook

By Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

Time to dust off your dancing shoes. Or if you don’t care to waltz or polka, perhaps listening to concertina music is more to your liking.

Gary Brueggen, Wisconsin’s Concertina Kid, makes an encore performance at the 34th annual Concertina Bowl in Blaine. Photo submitted

Either way, the 34th annual Concertina Bowl promises to be an uplifting, fun event with 12 nonstop hours of musical entertainment coming to Blainbrook’s Brook Hall, Jan. 28 from noon to midnight.

Gary Brueggen, billed as Wisconsin’s Concertina Kid, returns with his band Gary’s Ridgeland Dutchmen as the headliner. Brueggen, who hails from the LaCrosse area, is a 2008 Concertina Hall of Fame inductee.

“They look good on stage,” said event organizer Art Ohotto of Fridley. “Everything about them is good.”

Brueggen started playing concertina at the age of 10. He grew up in a family of concertina players. Now in his 30th year of performing, he plays throughout the United States and on Caribbean cruises. He has performed as far away as Germany and the Czech Republic

Blaine/Coon Rapids Knights of Columbus Council No. 5141 presents
The 34th annual Concertina Bowl
A reunion of music lovers
Jan. 28, noon to midnight
Adults $9.50, Students 18 & less $5, Kids under 12 Free
Brookhall at Blainbrook, 12000 Highway 65, Blaine
For more information, call 763-784-7204

“There will be a little of something for everybody,” Brueggen said of the upcoming Concertina Bowl, ticking off a list of showy tunes audience members will hear. The “Chromatic Polka,” “Champagne Polka,” “Roller Coaster,” “In the Mood,” various country and ‘50s and ‘60s tunes, for instance.

“We love to travel,” he said about his band. “We love to play. We love performing for people – making sure they’re getting their money’s worth for the events.”

Concertina Bowl’s special guest performer is Josh Eidsor, at 14 years old, a master concertina player.

“He reads the music better than most of us read the funny papers,” Ohotto said.

Josh, who lives in Shoreview, has been playing the concertina for three years, but he has taken piano lessons since the age of seven.

“What jump-started him was being able to read music,” said his mother Beth Eidsor.

In addition to soloing, Josh will play a few numbers with his grandfather Don Borash, also a concertina player.

But you’re certain to hear more than polkas and waltzes at this squeeze-box jam session that spans two rooms. Playing on more than 40 different concertinas, the musicians also perform classical music, fox trots and whatever moves them.

Or, if you have one, bring your own concertina and share your talent.

Bob Novak, of Lake Elmo and builder of the Echo concertina, presents a concertina display as well. It’s a place where people can buy, sell or trade their instruments. New or used. Mike Smieja, who restores and repairs concertinas, and George Hebaus, expert tuning and repairman, will be on hand, too.

Food and beverages are available for sale. Door prizes will be given away throughout the day. At 1:30 p.m. a cash prize of $34 will be awarded.

The music bowl used to draw as many as 750 concertina aficionados. The number has decreased to about 450 attendees in the last two years. The event draws people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Washington, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, Nebraska and Ontario, Canada, according to Ohotto. Many return year after year.

Unfortunately, many of the older players have headed to the great concertina bowl in the sky, Ohotto said. Still, he continues to head and promote the bowl.

“I’ve got a love affair with the concertina and I want to do everything I can to build it,” he said.

The event is sponsored by Blaine/Coon Rapids Knights of Columbus Council #5141.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]

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