The Tim Hortons Southside Shuffle Blues & Jazz Festival is always a cause for celebration amongst music lovers around the world. It was recognized as such at the 2018 Mississauga Arts Council’s Awards Gala in May, receiving the MARTY award for “Mississauga’s Best Festival”.
“When we started there were four bands -- Downchild, Fathead, Jack de Keyzer, and Jake & The Blue Midnights. We didn’t even have a liquor license. I think we might have seen 2,300 people on the two days,” recalls Jackson, a Port Credit native. “Now we have close to 150 bands. And over the last 20 years, we’ve employed probably 2,000 bands and 10,000 musicians.”
The music in Memorial Park has grown to encompass four different stages – the two ticketed Main Stages, and two free stages featuring continuous entertainment throughout the festival. Other perennial favourites include the “Junior Jam”, the “Harps For Kids” workshop hosted by Mark “Bird” Stafford, and the annual Beggars Blues Banquet - presented by West Village partners, offering a sneak preview of the performers on the Thursday night before the start of the Shuffle.
Festival-goers can also purchase clothing and crafts in the vendor’s village, and indulge themselves in the food court.
To pull together such a production, Jackson credits the “great” Board members, a dedicated crew of 300-plus volunteers, festival sponsors, and the help of the City of Mississauga, the Port Credit BIA, and the various levels of government which provide funding. The Southside Shuffle has consistently raised funds for charities like Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital as well.
“I just want to emphasize it’s a great team effort,” he says. “In crunch times, it’s quite hectic. It’s like a little village there in the park that week.”
Festival vice chair Sandy Smale is among those volunteers there since the inception. Her most indelible memories include having to make a last-minute run to find a white mug for festival headliner Buddy Guy, or the year when -- after having his performance in the park rained out -- headliner Coco Montoya pulled his car and trailer in front of the Port Credit Legion, and joined in the popular Friday and Saturday night Blues & Roots Jam (hosted by the Gary Kendall Band).
The Port Credit resident notes the bars are buzzing all weekend long, during the festival. “You can go in so many places and hear music,” she says. “People develop a love for the Blues.”