Niagara Gazette — Old Falls Street will look more like a blues juke than a city thoroughfare this Labor Day weekend.
The Niagara Falls Blues Festival will take over downtown again, with the popular event continuing for a sixth year on Aug. 30, 31 and Sept. 1.
Toby Rotella, noted blues maniac and one of the founding organizers of the festival, said as the festival has grown from year to year it has become part of Niagara Falls’ story.
“We’re building a history right now,” Rotella said.
The theme of this year’s festival will be a celebration of a Third Street blues juke Rotella owned where some of the genre’s biggest names, like Muddy Waters, graced the stage.
This year’s theme — The Legacy of the Imperial Garage — will pay homage to Rotella’s club and the many performers that howled out blues tunes inside.
“If it wasn’t for that Imperial Garage there would be no blues festival in Niagara Falls,” Rotella said.
This years’ line up will include many familiar faces for Rotella who he had booked at his club so many years ago.
National acts for the show include Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Mississippi Heat, Mahajibee Blues, Bill “The Sauce Boss” Wharton, Richard Ray Farrell, Cheryl Arena and Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh.
Mayor Paul Dyster, who has been a supporter of the festival since it began in 2008, said it has become an internationally known festival because of the level talent that Rotella and his fellow volunteers have been able to attract over the years.
“The festival organizers have put a lot of thought into programming,” the mayor said. “They have been able to attract people from all over who are very knowledgeable in the blues.”
One year, Rotella was able to get the original members of Muddy Waters’ band together to play the festival. It ended up being the last time they played together as some of the members have since died, Dyster said.