Gary, Indiana prepares for Michael Jackson's birthday with a four-day festival

August 26, 2011

(WBEZ/Michael Puente)
Beth Sajdera (left) and Debra Newberg outside Jackson's home
(WBEZ/Michael Puente)
Melvin Jackson of Gary is getting a stand ready to sell MJ souvenirs outside of MJ's boyhood home in Gary, Indiana

Gary, Indiana is celebrating Michael Jackson this weekend for what would be the King of Pop's 53rd birthday. Gary's four-day party will feature musical performances, a circus and other entertainment in front of Jackson's former home and Roosevelt High School. 

Fans gathered outside the former Jackson family home on Friday to prepare for the festivities.

Debra Newberg traveled from Texarkana, Texas for the weekend. She's written a book on Jackson entitled Reflections and Corrections on Michael Jackson: America in the Mirror, and says America "killed him slowly with our words."

"I think the enormous talent that was instilled in Michael Jackson we have yet to see, we have yet to see it," Newberg said. "And it's so sad that we've lost him before we could see his true talent."

Newberg's friend Beth Sajdera, from Lake Station, Indiana, remembers the first time she saw Jackson perform, with 'N Sync at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. "Michael Jackson came out, did his thing, I fell in love with him," Sajdera said. "I'm one of his biggest fans, I wouldn't know what to do without him."

And for the town of Gary, Jackson will never be forgotten. "The attention that he's bringing to Gary now, and the attention that he brought to Gary as an entertainer when he was performing, I think that will be his legacy," said Melvin Jackson (no relation), a vendor of Michael Jackson wares.

The Jackson family moved from Gary to California in 1969 as their fame grew. Several members of the Jackson family are expected to be in attendance over the weekend, including his parents and some siblings.

Michael Puente contributed to this report.