Three-day birthday celebration for ‘King of Pop’ gets underway
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com August 28, 2014 4:09PM
Ronee Martin from Columbia, VA now residing in LA sings during the opening of the Michael Jackson Birthday Bash in Gary on August 28, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 30, 2014 6:26AM
GARY — The Michael Jackson Festival of the Arts kicked off with music and dancing, but the real star was the King of Pop’s mother.
Katherine Jackson sat on a bench outside the family’s former house in Gary at 2300 Jackson St. and watched as students from Wirt-Emerson High School kicked off the festivities with a medley of some of her son’s most famous songs.
Katherine Jackson organized the event to honor her son’s 56th birthday and his fifth since he died in 2009.
Fans gathered around the fence surrounding the house, cheering and waving as Katherine Jackson walked out of the home and sat down.
They didn’t ignore the music, though, as many danced along to the orchestra, which is getting ready to tour China with Michael Jackson’s music.
Rovelli Grib, the orchestra’s director, said the performance was a good chance for the students to practice before their trip.
“We loved it,” he said.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson welcomed the fans to the event, pointing out the work done by the Fuller Center’s work to renovate four homes on the same block, which was still going on when the festival started.
“People see that we are rebuilding the city of Gary,” she said during her opening remarks.
Several local residents came by to see that work, including Ron and Peggy Smith of Portage. Although the couple said they aren’t Michael Jackson fans, they have come out to his house two other times since he died.
“I just wanted to see what’s going on,” Ron Smith said, adding that the couple made a point to get there early so they could see the renovation work by the Fuller Center.
Keita Saad mading the trip from her home in Cleveland. Saad said she hadn’t visited the Jackson home before because work usually got in the way during previous events at the home.
She decided to not let work get in her way this year, though.
“If anything, Michael Jackson taught us to seize the day,” she said, handing out pamphlets with a drawing of his face.
The festival is set to continue Friday and Saturday with musical acts and a dance competition.