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 editorial proudly compared The Turn to the 1936 Centennial and boasted how the event will be like no other millennium event in the country. After reminding readers that the event will be privately funded, the editorial encouraged all residents to help make the "bold dream" of Dallas marketing advisor Jeffrey Kaplan a reality.

"Mr. Kaplan's vision should be embraced by all who want this city to play a major role in ushering in the 21st Century," the editorial stated. "This city was at the forefront in celebrating the first century of Texas. And now it will be at the forefront of celebrating America's great past and boundless future."

A week earlier, the News published the first of what will undoubtedly be countless advertisements about The Turn. The full-page ad, which targeted the business community, depicted a beaming Mayor Kirk standing in the shadows of the Mobil Oil Pegasus on top of the Magnolia Building downtown.

"We're turning a thousand years into a major event," the ad states, presumably quoting Kirk. "In the closing weeks of 1999, Dallas will be the proud host of a major consumer exposition that offers tremendous benefits to the community. I hope you'll take a serious look at this opportunity."

On May 17, another full-page ad geared to the same audience featured a picture of the directors of the Asian-American, Hispanic, Black, and Greater Dallas chambers of commerce sitting proudly inside the Hall of State.

"You don't get ahead in business by letting opportunities get away--especially one this big," the ad stated. "You have a chance to put your name on this exciting event. And your brand on the future. So take the shot. Because we can't make The Turn without you."

For now, Kaplan isn't saying which CEOs have signed onto The Turn, but corporate miracles are already happening. Before Halbreich's May 7 announcement at the Hall of State, he and his employees managed to snare CBS as a major sponsor.

That was surely good news for Kaplan, who is just beginning to enjoy all the marketing clout the growing A.H. Belo family has to offer, including WFAA-Channel 8, plus its 16 additional television stations and five newspapers scattered from coast to coast.

Now Kaplan numbers on his team the sprawling CBS radio and television empire, which makes Belo's business portfolio look like a poorly endowed man's fig leaf.

With a lineup like that, people across the country will soon be learning about The Turn. In fact, they'll probably hear about it every time they get into their cars, turn on the television, or pick up their local paper--every day for the next year and a half.

"This is all part of history, so we're really not very worried that we're not going to get the attendance," Kaplan says. "That's just not a major concern of ours."

After spending several weeks courting business types, the tone of The Turn ads shifted gears as the News began the task of slowly persuading the public that The Turn and the future are good.

The front-page centerpiece of the Sunday, May 24, edition of the News was a glowing feature article that detailed the renovations under way at Fair Park, which has been crumbling in neglect ever since the 1936 Centennial.

Titled "Progress in Pieces," the article accurately described how a combination of city, state, and federal money has finally amounted to enough cash to get the Fair Park structures back on their foundations and safe from the elements.

There was no mention of The Turn anywhere in the article, but word of the event could be found a little deeper in the issue. Near the back of the front section, another full-page ad featured a shot of Craig Holcomb standing beneath a towering statue in Fair Park under the caption: "The Best Things Turn Up At Fair Park."

"In addition to the exposure it will bring to the park, The Turn has made a substantial commitment to the preservation of this important landmark," the ad continues. "I encourage you to get involved in this extraordinary event. Because we can't make The Turn without you."

The commitment the ad refers to is written into the lease The Turn Group signed with Fair Park. As part of the deal, the city will take 25 percent of the gross proceeds from food and beverage sales (less taxes) during the exhibition.

Half of the 25 percent cut will be dedicated to the restoration of artwork in the Esplanade area, including murals hidden beneath the paint on Centennial Hall and the Automobile building.

It's hard to guess how much that 25 percent cut will amount to, but Fair Park General Manager Eddie Hueston says that the agreement was something The Turn organizers insisted upon having in the contract.

"They wanted to leave a legacy," Hueston says.
At Fair Park, finding money to help restore artwork, much less keep the buildings from collapsing, has mostly been a losing effort until recently. When the park opens for this year's State Fair and, later, The Turn, Hueston says most visitors will be stunned by the renovations.

In the future, Hueston says, he's hoping The Turn will hoist Fair Park high up on the list of places people go for fun. "We happen to believe that The Turn will help focus people's attention to the fact that the park has made The Turn too."

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