Gary, Indiana Mayor RUDY CLAY has launched the city's memorial to favourite son Michael Jackson by declaring the King of Pop made "citizens proud".
The official joined Jackson's father Joe and civil rights leaders Revd. Jesse Jackson and Revd. Al Sharpton to pay tribute to the late pop superstar at a hastily-arranged memorial in the city where the Thriller star grew up.
Mayor Clay told thousands of fans, who had spent much of Friday (10Jul09) queueing for free tickets to the Steelyard Stadium show, "Michael Jackson put Gary, Indiana on the global map and made Gary citizens proud. His name is a household name anywhere in the world. We will never say goodbye."
City press secretary and memorial host Lalosa Burns told WENN the event had been "a logistic challenge," but she hoped the tribute, featuring performances from Gary native Deniece Williams and soul group the Chi-Lites, would be "a celebration fit for a king".
The Gary memorial began with the U.S. National Anthem and a jet flyover before Mayor Clay took the stage and called Jackson "the greatest entertainer in the world" and "our favourite son".
Former Miss Indiana Kelly Patterson began the tribute performances by singing Jackson's Gone Too Soon.
Jackson's first music teacher, Anita Hill, recalled teaching the future King of Pop to sing Climb Every Mountain and neighbour Jackie Stanton remembered Michael's fascination with her jewellery.
And the principal of his Gary middle school joked about an early Jackson 5 concert, where kids paid just 10 cents to see the pop group perform.
The four-hour memorial follows the official tribute, which took place in Los Angeles on Tuesday (07Jul09). That show featured performances from Stevie Wonder, Usher, Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie and speeches from Sharpton and Brooke Shields.
As well as tributes to Jackson, who died last month (25Jun09), the Gary event will also feature a minute's silence to honour another city native, Karl Malden, who passed away on 1 July (09), aged 97.