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Michael Jackson’s family helps Gary celebrate his birthday

Prince Blanket Jackssign autographs  before vigil for birthday their father Michael 2300 JacksStreet Gary Wednesday evening. | Jeffrey D.

Prince and Blanket Jackson sign autographs before a vigil for the birthday of their father Michael at 2300 Jackson Street in Gary Wednesday evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 1, 2012 4:37PM



GARY — Michael Jackson’s three children and mother spent his birthday Wednesday touring the city and signing autographs for fans during a candlelight vigil at his childhood home.

Prince, Paris and Blanket all slowly walked in front of the house at 2300 Jackson St. as fans handed them paper, Michael Jackson dolls and even a replica Michael Jackson “Thriller” jacket to sign.

Chicago resident Constanine Spiranos, who handed them the jacket, said he has loved Michael Jackson since he was a child.

“I can’t explain it,” he said of what it meant to have Jackson’s family sign his jacket.

Latanga Hill of Gary said she and her brother have listened to Jackson since he sang “ABC” with his brothers. She was able to get his children’s autograph.

“We’re very happy,” she said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. then led the crowd in a chant in honor of Jackson before talking about his roots.

“It all began right here on this corner,” Jesse Jackson said.

The family of 11 had to learn to live together in a four-room house, he said, and still managed to make an impression when they pulled up in a station wagon to the Chicago Black Expo one year.

“We watched this family grow across the years,” he said.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson thanked Katherine Jackson, Michael Jackson’s mother, for helping to put together the birthday celebrations taking place during the next three days in Gary.

“The children wanted to come back and see where their dad was from, where he started,” the mayor said.

The mayor and other city officials announced the events earlier Wednesday during a news conference.

Although all of Jackson’s children and his mother were scheduled to attend the news conference, only Paris and Prince came, after sitting outside in an SUV for about an hour. They accepted “I Heart Gary” blue T-shirts and buttons from the mayor. Jackson’s youngest son, Blanket, and his mother, Katherine Jackson, stayed in the SUV.

Freeman-Wilson sat in the vehicle with the family for a while and said afterward she was reassuring the family that the city would honor their wishes.

“The kids are still shy,” the mayor said. “They didn’t grow up in the spotlight.”

The mayor said the family had spent the day touring the Jacksons’ hometown.

Freeman-Wilson said the fact that the Indiana General Assembly had also passed a proclamation honoring the Jacksons shows the city’s events honoring Michael Jackson continue to grow each year.

Gary will try to track the economic impact from the events through Saturday, the mayor said.

“It absolutely has a positive impact across the board,” Freeman-Wilson said. “We need to get more restaurants for them.”

Events celebrating Jackson’s birthday will continue during the next three days, including at the RailCats baseball game Thursday night, where Jackson’s children are expected to throw the first pitch.

A concert honoring Jackson will take place Saturday at West Side High School. The event is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.



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