Party like it's 1999

Three wide-eyed promoters and the almighty A.H. Belo Corp. plan to boldly carry Big D and the rest of the world into the new millennium

The details of construction and financing of The Turn have yet to be hammered out, but clearly Kaplan and company already have been sipping from the millennium punch bowl.

The magical wonders that await humanity in the next thousand years are already evident in the public relations material The Turn is circulating around town. In a slick 16-page promotional folder, The Turn borrowed a quote from T.S. Eliot to communicate the importance it sees in its once-in-a-lifetime event:

"I have heard the key turn in the door and turn only once."
The heart of The Turn is expressed in the folder's centerfold, which expands into four pages that bring the exhibition and all of its possibilities to four-color life. There, a massive dome rises 10 stories above the Fair Park Esplanade and connects the Centennial and Automobile buildings.

Down below, smiling children snuggled in scarves and mittens glide across a skating rink, while dancers form a human V on a lighted, elevated stage where artists will perform every weekend throughout The Turn.

Off to the sides, parents take their children by the hand and lead them through unseen exhibits that will be erected inside the Centennial and Automobile buildings.

Because The Turn will occur during the winter, the dome is designed to protect visitors from the elements by wrapping the Esplanade like a massive electric blanket. But as David Shinn explains, there also is a psychological dimension.

"It connects the whole space and creates one large environment that the whole event can occur within," Shinn says. "Covering the Esplanade really makes the Esplanade area the heart and center of the event."

Three colossal geodesic balls, each rising six stories, will be erected in front of the Hall of State. When Jean Compton retells the story of how she came up with the idea of the balls, giggles rise from the third floor of the Renaissance Building. Initially, Compton confesses, her partners thought she had lost it.

"I said right in the middle of it, you have to have a big geodesic dome, and David looked at me," Compton says, batting an eye at Shinn. "I was pounding on the tables. I said we have to have a dome. I just see it. I see a dome."

Shinn took Compton's vision of circles a step further. He thought the event shouldn't just have one dome, it should have three: one is a replica of the earth, another looks like the moon, while the third looks like a big golf ball.

Mother Earth. Sister Moon. Golf. It's a cosmic convergence.
The balls and exhibit rotate around four themes: The Mainstreet Experience (in the buildings) illustrates our relationship with the past; the Earthly Kingdom (in the earth dome) illustrates our relationship with the environment; the Global Village (the golf ball) illustrates our relationship with other people; and the Cosmic Sea (moon dome) illustrates our relationship with the future.

"The idea is that history has turning points. We know that the day the bombs didn't drop with Khrushchev and Kennedy that that's a turning point, because we got to continue on," Kaplan explains. "If you had a baby two days ago, that'd be a turning point for you."

In order to pique people's enthusiasm for the event, The Turn Group is preparing a participatory aspect of the show.

An area will be designated Unity Park, where every Sunday parishioners of all faiths will be encouraged to skip their ordinary services and participate in "Unity Celebrations."

Turn visitors may submit photographs of turning points in their own lives and enter them into a contest. They also will be asked to bring various items, such as their favorite compact disc, and place them in a see-through model of the space shuttle, which will act as a time capsule.

When the event is over, Kaplan says he plans to donate the shuttle to the city with the hope of having it displayed in a park.

"What I'm trying to do is break out of the box," Kaplan says. "Is it interesting in 2000? Maybe. But in 2010 or 2015, when a 15-year-old that was there suddenly has their kid, and they're saying, 'Hey, that's my CD,' and the kid goes, 'Wow, what was a CD?' That's the kind of thing we're talking about, so everybody leaves their mark."

While The Turn's plans continue to evolve, several questions linger. For instance, why did Kaplan choose Dallas as the world's focal point for the millennium, and how on earth will he get the news of The Turn out to a million people?

Kaplan has been asked those questions a lot lately, and he can fire off a response quicker than NASA can launch the space shuttle into orbit.

"We've got a worldwide presence. We've got a strong geographic advantage--D/FW airport being here is a very convenient gateway for visitors to come from everywhere," Kaplan says. "We've got great civic leadership. We've got a forward-thinking corporate community. [Dallas] makes as good sense as any other community in the U.S."

A few other factors play into Kaplan's hand.
All big events need money to succeed. And, as Kaplan knows, getting money requires corporate sponsors.

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