Niagara Gazette — They've been working for five years to turn downtown Niagara Falls into a hotspot for blues music.
On Friday, organizers and supporters of the city's annual blues festival gathered inside Conference Center Niagara Falls for a special holiday show aimed at keeping the groove going in 2013 and beyond.
As city officials continue to cut back financial support for the event in light of the ongoing casino cash concerns in Niagara Falls, festival organizers joined up with the conference center's management team - Global Spectrum - in hopes of raising more private funds to support next year's downtown blues jam.
"We are proud that area blues fans have come out to support Niagara’s premier festival event," said Sherry Kushner, director of the Niagara Festival & Entertainment Group, the non-profit organization that has been overseeing festival operations since 2008. "This year, the festival needs extra support from the community. Our main goal, as it has been since the inception of the festival five years ago, is to give the the area to top notch blues festival for free."
The first-ever Blues Christmas Friday fundraiser featured two things that have helped grow the annual festival in Niagara Falls each year - southern barbecue and lives blues. Proceeds from the event, which featured performances by The Electras and Big Tobacco, will be used to cover some of the expenses for the 2013 festival.
"We'd like to thank the community and area businesses for supporting the festival at a time when we are at a crossroads to keep the Niagara Falls Blues Festival alive hopefully we wil moving forward and keep it growing,“ Kushner said.
The Niagara Festival & Entertainment Group was organized and is led by Toby Rotella, a Niagara Falls native who developed a lot of contacts in the blues scene during his days as owner of the old Imperial Garage on Third Street. Rotella and company held the city's first blues festival in 2008, a one-day affair that drew between 2,000 and 2,500 people.