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Passing of Thorold's “Godfather of the Blues” marks end of an era

Decades of volunteer music presentations in Thorold have come to an end.

It would be difficult to find anyone whose selfless volunteerism has brought more musical entertainment to the city of Thorold—or raised more money for charity—than Tim Sinnett.

The Artistic Director of the Canal Bank Shuffle, which for the past 18 years has filled Thorold’s halls, restaurants and pubs with North America's best blues musicians and fans, passed away suddenly this morning in hospital.

To his friends, Sinnett has been affectionately nicknamed “Godfather of the Blues,” and in the past several years, the Shuffle has averaged more than 30 shows each year, featuring the most internationally renowned blues artists, all of whom were on a first-name basis with Sinnett.

With his unmatched passion for the blues, and innate ability to spot the best talent, Sinnett and his wife, Lynn, made annual treks to Memphis and other blues meccas to find new and exciting acts to bring to Thorold.

Launched by Sinnett and his friend John Davis in 2002, the annual volunteer-run event grew into a four-day music festival that has brought thousands of music-lovers to Thorold venues, and raised more than $200,000 for charities through the years.

The highly successful Blues Festival is the brainchild of the two former Thoroldites and friends, who attended the Spring Blues Festival in Orillia in 2002, and decided to create a festival in Thorold.

For 18 years, festival profits generated were donated to the Niagara Autism Society, Wellspring Niagara, the Animal Assistance Society, the Thorold Community Activities Group, and countless others.

Joined by fellow volunteers Rudy Walter—who passed away last year—as well as John O’Brien, Dave Rotz, and Bob Liddycoat, the inaugural festival featured 12 Canadian bands during the course of three days. To cover the cost of bands that first year, the team sold Crispy Crème donuts from May to October, never dreaming the event would be so successful, or gradually grow into one of Ontario’s premier blues festivals.

More volunteers joined the team and they worked year round, hosting “seed money” shows to help cover the cost of bands for the fall festival.

Known to locals as “The Shuffle,” the festival earned a reputation for showcasing every genre of blues imaginable performed by many of the best-known and award-winning artists in the blues world.

Featuring acts ranging from one acoustic guitarist in an intimate corner cafe to hundreds of people dancing at Holy Rosary Hall, the annual event also earned a great reputation among the musicians, who were frequently seen "shuffling" to catch other acts after their own gigs, occasionally joining each other onstage for impromptu gigs.

Sinnett, the long-time owner of Trillium Industrial Safety Supply, leaves behind his devoted wife, Lynn, their three daughters and their families.