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Thousands — and MJ’s kids — expected for King of Pop celebration

Angel Diaz 11 El Paso TX performs various Michael Jackssongs Gary Thursday August 29 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media

Angel Diaz, 11, of El Paso, TX performs various Michael Jackson songs in Gary on Thursday August 29, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media

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Take the bus

Michael Jackson fans wanting to take the bus to the celebration site this weekend are being advised to hop on Gary Public Transportation Corp.’s Route 22. It runs hourly in the Midtown area and includes a stop at 25th Avenue and Jackson Street, two blocks from the Jackson family residence at 2300 Jackson St.

GPTC route maps are available at www.gptcbus.com/routes.htm. Anyone with questions may contact GPTC at (219) 884-6100, Ext. 0, or send them directly via Twitter to @GaryTransit, or Facebook GPTC or email Planning
Manager@gptcbus.com.

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Updated: September 29, 2014 6:31AM



Celebrations for Michael Jackson’s birthday have grown from a block party around his boyhood home to a three-day festival set to start Thursday in what local officials and event promoters hope will become an annual affair.

The Michael Jackson Tribute Festival of the Arts will focus not only on the famous musician, however, but also on encouraging new artists.

“[We want to] let them know it’s a good thing to develop the arts,” event promoter Karvin Johnson said. “Develop your creativity.”

Previous events celebrating Jackson’s birthday Aug. 29 have centered around the former family home at 2300 Jackson St. This year’s event — the fifth since he died in 2009 — has grown to encompass the nearby Roosevelt High School campus and will feature local and new artists.

Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, spearheaded the event, Johnson said, and she and other family members, including Michael Jackson’s children, will attend.

“She wants to set something in place that will be something to commemorate and celebrate Michael’s legacy,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he expects about 5,000 people a day at the festival, including people from Brazil, Canada and China.

The festival will kick off Thursday with an orchestra and choir made up of Gary students singing and playing a medley of Michael Jackson songs. The Gary Community School Corp. conducted an audition last week for the lead singer.

“Michael Jackson has always been one of the most beloved if not most beloved artists in R&B history,” school district spokeswoman Charmella Greer said. “Students, whether young or older, it doesn’t matter, they’re excited about [the festival].”

The musical performance will be followed by a ceremony at Roosevelt High School on Thursday afternoon, which will include remarks by local officials.

Other highlights include a stage next to the former Jackson home for new and emerging artists, a chance to scratch records and play drums, and a trivia competition that will, of course, focus on the Jackson family. Saturday will include a car show and a dance competition judged by Michael Jackson’s children, Johnson said.

The festival will conclude Saturday night with a live performance by Mindless Behavior and fireworks.

“The main thing is to encourage kids that you can express yourself through art,” Johnson said.

The event will have 24-hour private security to help Gary police officers, he said.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she sees the festival as a key piece to a week of events in Gary, including the Fuller Center Build, a service project that will build four homes in the area of the Jackson family’s former home.

“It provides a new look, a positive look [for Gary],” Freeman-Wilson said.

Both Freeman-Wilson and Johnson said they would like to see this event continue and grow each year. Johnson said the event promoters hope to add even more events in coming years, including possibly a circus.

Another event promoter, Sharon Chamber, a Gary businesswoman who became involved after the Jackson family contacted her about home insurance for the house at 2300 Jackson St., said she would love to see the event become a regular tourist attraction like Graceland, Elvis Presley’s former home.

“I was just kind of hoping this becomes an annual thing — a national tribute to Michael,” she said.

Freeman-Wilson said she would like to work with the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority to find a way to quantify what the festival brings to the city, including in money spent.

“We know it’s going to be a positive thing,” she said. “The question then becomes what does it look like and how much.”

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE:

THURSDAY

Noon: Gary School Marching Band enters Jackson Street toward 2300 Jackson. Dance troupe performs tribute to Michael Jackson. Opening ceremony with opening remarks from Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and city officials. Festival Village opens at Roosevelt High School Football Field.

1 p.m.: Dedication of homes by Fuller Center for Housing of Gary, CEO remarks; Introduction of the family and presentation of key. Closing remarks by Phyllis Barlow.

1:30 p.m.: Artist performances on all stages. DJs play Michael Jackson mix in the Festival Village and at 2300 Jackson St.

3:30 p.m.: Special ceremony in the Roosevelt High School Auditorium, hosted by Deborah Chang.

Ceremony will play on the big screen in the Festival Village.

5:30 p.m.: Special ceremony ends. Artist performances on all stages.

9 p.m.: End of day’s events.

Kids Pavilion: Corner of Festival Village, open from noon-7 p.m.

FRIDAY

Noon: Festival Village opens at Roosevelt High School Football Field. Artist performances on the small stage and in Festival Village. DJs play Michael Jackson mix in the Festival Village and at 2300 Jackson St.

Kids Pavilion: Corner of Festival Village, open from noon-7:30 p.m.; petting zoo open from 2-6 p.m. and 6:30-7:30 p.m.

7 p.m.: Dancing on the lawn with music provided by a DJ followed by a live band.

8:30 p.m.: Live band performs.

9 p.m.: End of day’s events.

SATURDAY

9 a.m.: Car show starts.

Noon: Artist performances on the small stage and in Festival Village.

3 p.m.: Car show winner announced on main stage.

6 p.m.: Winners of all competitions and headliners start performing.

8 p.m.: OMG Girlz

8:30 p.m.: Mindless Behavior

8:55 p.m.: Fireworks

9 p.m.: End of day’s events.

Kids Pavilion: Corner of Festival Village, open noon- 7 p.m.; petting zoo open noon-4 p.m.



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