New Year’s planners want Dallas to party like it’s 2000

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 29A

Note to North Texans: You don’t need a nice, round number like 2000 to have an excuse to party on New Year’s Eve.

While 2001 might not have the same “wow” factor as last year’s Y2K Night, organizers of Sunday night’s downtown bash hope they can turn a one-year splash into an annual tradition.

“Other cities have enjoyed this sort of celebration for a long time, but for whatever reason, we haven’t established anything like this in Dallas,” said Brandt Wood, the executive producer of Dallas 2001.

“We’re hoping that this can be the start of a long tradition.”

Last year, Dallas entered 2000 with a big party downtown, centered on the relighting of Pegasus, the red neon horse atop the Magnolia Hotel that had not glowed since 1997. About 45,000 people attended last year, and organizers are hoping for a similar turnout Sunday.

But, Mr. Wood acknowledged, it’s a challenge to get people as excited about ringing in 2001 as they were about 2000.

“Last year, with all the Y2K hype and the millennium, we could just ride the marketing wave,” said Mr. Wood, who is also president and co-owner of Entertainment Collaborative, the private company that is putting on the show.

“This year, we really have to create the campaign to get people excited.”

There’s one other major difference. Unlike at last year’s event, which was free for all but the few who wanted access to a VIP tent, entrance to Dallas 2001 will require a $5 ticket (on sale through Ticketmaster, and Sunday at the party). Ticket holders will be eligible for discounts and deals over the weekend at several downtown and Deep Ellum restaurants and businesses.

Mr. Wood said the admission fee was necessary. Dallas 2001 will cost more than $1 million to put on, and, “You can’t finance an event like this every year on sponsors alone,” he said.

He refused to say how many tickets had been sold.

The party, which starts at 6 p.m., will take place between Ervay, Commerce, Elm and Lamar streets. Main Street will be turned into a pedestrian walkway until the party shuts down at 1 a.m.

In an attempt to appeal broadly to North Texans, Dallas 2001 will feature musical styles ranging from neo-traditionalist country (Eleven Hundred Springs) to Latin pop (Marlissa Vela), from cutting-edge polka (Brave Combo) to boy-band pop (Sons of Harmony).

Bluesman Lucky Peterson will get the prized slot just before and after midnight, but at the moment itself, local guitarist Lance Lopez will take the stage for a Jimi Hendrix-inspired rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” backed by fireworks – moved from last year’s location for better visibility – and a light show.

Mr. Wood said he was surprised by the number of families who attended last year. As a result, he said, Sunday night would feature more fun for children, including a repeat performance by children’s singer Eddie Coker.

If ticket sales are strong enough, some of the proceeds will benefit Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, he said.

Dallas 2001 isn’t the area’s only major event planned for the moment the calendar turns – in Fort Worth, brave souls will start the year with a five-mile run – but anyone out that night will likely have to deal with frigid weather.

Forecasters predict temperatures below freezing when the fireworks go off Sunday night. That’s colder than many Texans have historically been willing to stand at an outdoor event.

“In places like New York City or Boston, these events are so ingrained in the fabric of life that people regularly brave zero-degree temperatures,” Mr. Wood said.

But will it fly deep in the Sun Belt?

“We just hope people dress warm,” he said.