GARY | Katherine Jackson, mother of late pop superstar Michael Jackson, was the guest of honor at a special dinner Friday hosted by the Gary Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson at Majestic Star Casino & Hotel.
The dinner was one of a series of events and activities in Gary coinciding with what would have been Michael Jackson's 54th birthday.
Freeman-Wilson said she spoke with Katherine Jackson before the dinner and that the King of Pop's mother believes, like the mayor, that there really is no place like home.
“For her, Gary is in fact home,” Freeman-Wilson said.
Freeman-Wilson said the legacy of Michael Jackson often is celebrated without acknowledging the legacy from which he came.
“We thought it was a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge that legacy,” she said.
Michael Jackson tribute artist Carlo Riley traveled from Colorado to attend the festivities in Gary, including the dinner. He said he’s been a fan of Michael’s since the day he was born in 1982 — the year “Thriller” was released. He met Michael’s mother last year in Gary and met Michael’s children Thursday at the RailCats game.
Riley, who closely resembles the late performer, said he met Michael himself in Tokyo in 2007 for a 25th anniversary party for “Thriller.”
“Sometimes people talk to me as if I was Michael,” he said. “They say they love my music. They know I’m not him, but they live that fantasy. It’s like Santa Claus for little kids.”
Lauren Krozser, 20, drove from Cleveland with her mother to attend the dinner. Wearing her replica Michael Jackson “Beat It” jacket, Krozser was hoping for a chance to meet some of the Jackson family members.
“I’m a huge fan of Michael,” she said. “I love that he was able to deliver such a great message and at the same time be cool and have everybody excited about his art."
Local talk show host Michael Essany was at the dinner and did some filming with the Jackson family Thursday at the RailCats game. The final product will be seen on one of the first episodes of Essany’s upcoming talk show “Seven on Ridge.”
“We’re here to celebrate Mrs. Jackson and the life and legacy of Michael," he said.
The Goin' Back to Indiana: Can You Feel It activities continue Saturday with a concert at the West Side Theatre Guild.
Expected to attend are "Extra’s" Mario Lopez and Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris Jackson.