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

In Southern California, a group of promoters are planning "The Biggest Concert, Party and Celebration ever held on the Planet Earth," according to the group's website. That party will be held on 4,500 acres of yet-to-be-chosen land, where five of the largest stages ever built will feature three days of nonstop rocking, eating, boozing, and puking.

After hearing a brief description of The Turn, BU's Landes says the Dallas event sounds like it has potential to stand out among the crowd, providing that the promoters resist the urge to let their corporate sponsors sugarcoat the past.

"Tourism is a secular pilgrimage. This event is going to happen during the Christmas shopping season. OK, so they're clever. But if they're really clever, they'll be original," Landes says. "If you paint a history that suits the people who are sitting pretty right now, you're really not doing very well."

Kaplan and his partners, who all make a living by creating exhibitions, don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about their intentions: They are not putting on the biggest exhibition in their lives for the money. (They declined, however, to discuss how much money they have invested in the project or how they are getting paid.)

And, more importantly, Kaplan swears The Turn's exhibitions will go well beyond tacky corporate pitches.

"This is not a place to pick up brochures," says Kaplan, who offers up a hypothetical. "Let's say Mattel takes an exhibit space. You're not gonna see Mattel toys, walk out, and buy 'em. That's not the purpose. You're gonna see the history of toys, and Mattel is going to put together that exhibit and put their name on it.

"They're going to add to the content by providing us with the history of their particular industry."

One exhibition that The Turn Group's promotional folder describes will take place inside the Mainstreet Experience. There, visitors will be able to "trace the history of communications from the printing press to the cyber-newsroom."

Maybe the exhibit will include an interactive business plan that allows young entrepreneurs to learn how companies like, say, A.H. Belo or CBS, use the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act to monopolize the nation's airwaves and stamp out the voices of competitors.

Only the future will tell.
Yes, all of the details about how The Turn exhibitions will look and who will sponsor them are all things that Kaplan and his partners are busy knitting together.

But there is one thing that's for sure.
The citizens of Dallas and beyond will soon be hearing all about the details of the approaching Turn, especially those people who subscribe to The Dallas Morning News.

Given the early press it's already gotten, The Turn is fast becoming reminiscent of the 1936 Centennial.

Back then, in order to attract the interest of potential Centennial visitors, a committee of advertisers and newsmen, led by a News reporter, went so far as to create a newspaper geared specifically toward covering the Centennial.

"Texans," Ragsdale wrote in his history of the exhibition, "were about to be subjected to the greatest historical brainwashing in the state's history."

The past, as they say, is prologue.

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