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Music festival attracts hundreds to Benton Harbor for 20 years

Benton Harbor, Mich. –

Live music and dancing brings nearly 1,000 tourists to Benton Harbor every year.

City officials say that boom in business is thanks to one annual music festival, organized by a man who’s looking to turn the city into a jazz hotspot.

“They look forward to this one day, and I look forward to giving it to them,” said organizer Lee “Mr. Lee” Kirksy. “And as long as god lets me have breath, I’m going to continue to try to do my part.”

20 years ago, Mr. Lee thought he was just bringing a good time to Benton Harbor.

But ask the residents, including the mayor, and they’ll tell you he’s been instrumental in bringing pride to the city.

“Man, that brings tears to my eyes because, you’re just an everyday person and god just lifts you up,” said Mr. Lee.

Mr. Lee still credits this community’s respect for him to his faith.

And he says there’s no bigger blessing to him than bringing different communities together.

“Let’s see each other on a beautiful sunny day, barbequing, cooking out, just having a good ole spiritual Jesus time,” said Mr. Lee.

That was the plan for Mr. Lee, a longtime Chicagoan, when he kicked off this annual blues festival in Benton Harbor two decades ago.

This year, another packed crowd of music enthusiasts is expected to fill Jean Klock Park for it and explore the rest of what the city has to offer.

All thanks to a man with bigger plans for this city.

“He knows entertainers around the world, so we’re going to try to do something for our kids and put spirit and love in their hearts, from us,” said Archie Davis, a DJ for Mr. Lee’s Blues Festival.

His partner Archie Davis says despite his age, Mr. Lee is quite in tune with the city’s youth.

So much so he has invited the Tiger’s marching band to perform at the festival.

He says even though he’s never actually lived here, he wants them to know opportunities do exist here.

“After me, they can carry on, it doesn’t have to be a guy from Chicago, it can be someone right here,” said Mr. Lee.


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