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

When asked whether the timing of articles like the Fair Park story were part of a strategic marketing plan The Turn Group has hammered out with Belo, Turn spokeswoman Becky Young says she's pretty sure that's not the case.

"It's my understanding that their editorial [coverage] is really separate from their marketing support," says Young, who adds that she'll have to fight for coverage in the News "just the same as anyone else would."

The timing of that particular edition of the Sunday paper must have been a coincidence. Or, better yet, perhaps it was an omen of the good things yet to come inside the pages of the News.

Let there be no doubt, The Turn Group knows it has a lot of work to do if it is going to convince people to come to Dallas for The Turn, regardless of what news coverage they get in the Leading Newspaper of Texas.

Many people around the country and around the world already are staking their own claims to the millennium, and the competition is stiff.

Richard Landes is a history professor at Boston University and cofounder of the Center for Millennial Studies, an academic organization that is tracking the various events being planned in and around 2000.

Landes hadn't heard of The Turn when he spoke with the Observer last month, but students of the millennium such as himself are keeping an eye on Dallas and North Texas.

Given the region's reputation for militia movements and its large population of fundamentalist readers of the Book of Revelation, Landes says he wouldn't be surprised if some really big event soon turned the world's eyes on Big D.

"If somebody were to say to me, 'What city is most likely to have a major ramification [stemming from] apocalyptic enthusiasm in the year 2000?'" Landes says, "along with Rome and Jerusalem, I'd put down Dallas."

So far, Landes says he's identified two basic themes surrounding this millennium: indifference and full-throttle enthusiasm.

"Some people say, 'Millennium, schmillennium, why should I bother thinking about it?'" Landes says. "On the other hand, you have people that go bonkers--they spend a million dollars on a dome, then scramble to find things to fill it with."

The dome he refers to is under construction in Greenwich, England, the world's official timekeeper. Although The Turn Group is hoping that their balls will be the best, the Brits are going to have the biggest.

When the Greenwich dome is finished, it will be the largest in the world and will become home to a silver statue of Britannia, which will be 20 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.

As part of the yearlong exhibition, the U.K. also is planning to build a subway station that will unload an estimated 12 million visitors in the new "Millennium Village," where 1,400 homes are under construction. The total cost of the project, including the dome, is 4 billion British pounds.

As part of the British millennium orgy, the U.K. has created a Panel 2000 whose members are charged with creating a new image for Britain. "Panel 2000 is also remarkable because of what it is setting out to do: It is tasked with improving the way Britain projects itself overseas," according to information posted on the Internet.

Maybe they'll come up with a decent cookbook--and learn to use it.
Other countries, however, are more obvious destination points to celebrate the turn. In Bethlehem, the city of Christ's birth, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has formed a "Bethlehem 2000" committee to prepare for the millions of pilgrims expected to flock to that historic city.

Still more millions of people are expected to march like cows heading for the slaughterhouse into Megiddo, Israel, to mark the end of the millennium in "gloomy style," according to Internet postings.

Located 45 miles north of Tel Aviv, Megiddo is the fabled city where Christians believe the Antichrist will rise up. To offset the potential for disaster, city planners are going to create a "contemplation chamber" as well as 15 exhibition rooms, light shows, and holograms, and hire period actors to guide tourists through 6,000 years of religious history.

In Italy, the Vatican doesn't appear to be worried about losing its stranglehold as the world's Christian capital, but city officials are spending more than $4 billion to give the place a makeover for an expected 20 to 40 million visitors.

A Chicago-based company, called "The Billennium, The Official Celebration of the Year 2000," is the only organization that has obtained a globally registered name for year 2000 celebrations. The group is planning massive New Year's Eve 1999 bashes at sites around the globe, including Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China, and the Pyramids.

And while The Turn Group will create a time capsule in the form of a see-through space shuttle back in Dallas, the Billennium is threatening to launch its own time capsule into orbit aboard a satellite.

On a smaller scale, 35 women in the small village of Bobcaygeon, Ontario, are busy knitting 1,000 pairs of mittens so the town's children "will have warm hands for the winter of 2000."

Back in the United States, New York's Times Square will be converted into a massive television screen on New Year's Eve and broadcast countdown scenes from around the globe. (That's in addition to the traditional dropping of the ball with Dick Clark, presuming he's still alive.)

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