World-class musicians to perform Sept. 15-16 at Niagara Falls Blues Festival

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The popular Niagara Falls Blues Festival – Old Falls St, Niagara Falls, NY – will return for its 14th year of programming on Old Falls Street. The dates are Friday, Sept. 15, and Saturday, Sept. 16. The event will be held in memoriam of Toby Rotella, the founder of the festival who passed away in March.


Thomas Philip “Toby” Rotella, of Key Largo, FL and Ransomville, NY died after a long illness on March 12, 2023, at the age of 82.

Early on, Toby demonstrated his incredible entrepreneurial spirit when he opened the Imperial Garage in 1980. This was after a yearlong effort to rebuild a condemned building on Third Street in Niagara Falls. As a result, this legendary venue hosted some of the greatest blues musicians to ever pick up an instrument. The headliners included John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name a few. During that time of owning and operating the Imperial Garage, Toby became close with Muddy Waters after his mother’s spaghetti and sweet potato pie opened the door for this unlikely friendship.


For the past 14 years, Toby was the driving force behind the Niagara Falls Blues Festival. It grew out of a series of reunion concerts that memorialized the Imperial Garage’s legacy. Toby and his team brought some of the world’s greatest blues acts to the stage in downtown Niagara Falls.

​The festival attracted tens of thousands of people from all around the United States and Canada. The Blues Festival has made a lasting impact on the local economy, cemented Niagara Falls as a favorite destination for musicians. The mayor provided Toby with the key to the City of Niagara Falls. Toby’s vision and connections to the music industry opened many doors that will remain a part of the Blues Festival for years to come.

For more about Toby’s life, legacy and contributions to the Niagara Falls Blues Festival, click here.

“Niagara Festival and Entertainment Group, in partnership with Old Falls Street, will continue Toby’s legacy of bringing first-class blues entertainers to our event with the help of our dedicated volunteers, partners and generous donors,” said Sherry Kushner, assistant entertainment director for the Niagara Festival and Entertainment Group.


Nationally known acts: the legendary Joe Louis Walker, and award-winning electric blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland will delight blues fans in attendance. Additionally, Spencer Mackenzie, a Canadian blues singer, will also be performing, along with many other premier singers and musicians.”

Niagara Falls Blues Festival

Attendees can enjoy live music from regional and national musicians, along with local food and drink vendors, at this free festival, just footsteps from Niagara Falls.

USA President and CEO John Percy said, “The Niagara Falls Blues Festival brings thousands of people to downtown Niagara Falls. Old Falls Street is happy to support an event that benefits local businesses in the surrounding area.”

It will run from 5-10:30 p.m. Friday, and from 1-10:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit http://www.niagarafallsbluesfest.org/.