New festival aims to find Saginaw's soul - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

New festival aims to find Saginaw's soul

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SAGINAW (WJRT) -

(08/08/12) - After years at or near the top of the FBI's Most Violent Cities list, one group is hoping to have a big impact on changing that image.

Wednesday morning, committee members announced details about the first-ever 'Saginaw's Got Soul' festival.

It kicks off Aug. 8, 2013. It will take place in the heart of downtown.

The first event will be a blues concert, featuring Saginaw-native Larry McCray.

The YMCA of Saginaw will also offer a race along the Saginaw Riverwalk.

But perhaps the most excitement surrounds the return of the Gus Macker 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament.

"The town here really embraced it back in the day. It was a big deal," said Scott McNeal, the owner and creator of the tournament. McNeal says next year actually marks his 40th year in business.

The last time the tournament was in Saginaw, was 1999.

Organizers couldn't be happier.

"Saginaw is rising. Saginaw is changing, and people need to come here and find that out," said committee member Dr. Ziggy Kozicki at a news conference Wednesday morning at The Dow Event Center.

Committee members came up with the idea after a meeting last year. "We're just talking about, what we could do to help with some of the violence," explained Dr. Stephanie Baiyasi, another committee member.

Their answer - change Saginaw's negative image by offering something positive.

"We've got to take the attention of the violence and crime, and begin to look at what Saginaw's all about," said Pastor Larry Camel, with Parishioners on Patrol.

Camel's group will benefit from the 'Saginaw's Got Soul' festival. Money raised will help non-profits, like Parishioner on Patrol, who in turn help the community.

"Saginaw's got soul. Saginaw is a great community. It's gone through some hard times, just like many communities throughout the United States has, and we want people not to give up on Saginaw. Not to give up on themselves. We want them to believe that Saginaw is a rising community, with a whole bunch of potential," Kozicki said.

Organizers hope a gospel concert will bring people in, likewise for 'Beach Street Volleyball'. They'll truck in sand to this lot where the Saginaw Plaza Hotel is being torn down.

From music to art to sports, everyone involved hopes Saginaw's soul makes a strong comeback.

"I hope they come away with the fact that the Macker was part of the glue to bring this community back together. I think we have a bigger purpose than just playing basketball," McNeal said.

The group is still looking for people to help with the event. You can contact them through their website, by clicking here.

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