Y2k party to end while its 1999

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By ELIZABETH BENJAMIN, Staff writer First published: Wednesday, September 22, 1999

Y2K party to end while it's still 1999

Albany -- City to stop bash at 11 p.m. to avoid potential problems; others not following lead

On the eve of the new millennium, downtown revelers will follow the advice of the Artist Formerly Known as Prince and "party like it's 1999'' at the city's annual New Year's bash.

But the fun won't carry over into 2000.

Although they are convinced the talk of Y2K disaster is overblown, city officials have adopted a "better safe than sorry'' attitude and are planning to cut short Albany's celebration at 11 p.m. on Dec. 31.

"My feeling is that everything will be fine, but we don't want people not to participate because they're worried about what's going to happen at midnight,'' said Mayor Jerry Jennings. "A lot of people want to be with their families on this historic night. If we end at 11 p.m., people who want to leave can leave, and they won't miss anything.''

Other Capital Region cities planning New Year's revelries are not following Albany's lead. In fact, at least two are going in the opposite direction -- either expanding the duration of their First Night parties or adding extra entertainment to ring the new century in with a bang that befits the historic shedding of the "nineties'' for the "oughts.''

"I'm not worried about the lights, or that God will strike us all dead at midnight,'' said Jerry Nason, executive director of First Night in Bennington, Vt., where the celebration will end at 1 a.m. -- an hour later than usual. "When the time comes for us all to perish, I'm sure it's going to happen whether I want it to or not. Anyone sitting home worrying about it is just wasting their time.''

Saratoga Springs will be "scaling up'' its First Night this year with more activities, more artists and more venues, according to Keith Kross, executive director of the Saratoga YMCA, which is in charge of orchestrating the fest. Officials are taking "extra organizational steps'' to address possible Y2K problems, Kross said -- although power company authorities have repeatedly assured everyone the lights will stay on.

"I'm not sure anyone can tell you 100 percent that things are going to be OK at 12:01 a.m.,'' Kross said. "We're trying to be cautious, but you can't predict what's going to happen. Based on past years, everyone will be outside at midnight so electricity won't be a factor.''

Albany, which 13 years ago was the first city in New York to adopt the Boston-born alcohol-free tradition of First Night, will not be holding an official party of that name this year. Instead, it will host what is being billed as "The Albany Millennium 2000 Celebration.''

Using the First Night name requires registration with the First Night International organization and payment of a fee based on a municipality's population -- typically from several hundred dollars to $4,000 for cities with 1 million or more people.

Attendance at First Night Albany has slacked off to about 10,000 partyers in recent years, a phenomenon city officials attribute in part to bitter cold weather and also to increasing competition of other Capital Region municipalities holding their own First Nights.

Albany officials opted to strike out on their own and do something "totally unique and different'' this year in honor of the millennium, said city Special Events Director Dorothy "Dottie'' Dack. The event will still feature buttons that serve as entry tickets, but they will sport a new logo. With the exception of the annual 5K run through Washington Park, all the vendors, music and entertainment venues will be downtown to focus attention on the mayor's recent revitalization efforts.

There will be two fireworks displays, a big-name act at the Pepsi Arena, giant puppets mingling with the crowd, gospel singers on the arena steps -- all aiming to create a Mardi Gras feeling on the streets. Minus the alcohol, of course.

But will five hours -- instead of the usual six -- be enough to cram in all that family-oriented partying?

"I don't think it's a bad idea to end an event of this magnitude on the early side,'' Dack said. "People will have the chance to do everything they want to do in five hours. Really, how many more hours do you need?''


-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), September 22, 1999


"Based on past years, everyone will be outside at midnight so electricity won't be a factor.''"

Of course it won't. Everyone will be holding little candles.

How totally bizarre. Mardi Gras minus the alcohol? Ending a New Year's party before midnight? What planet are these folks from?

-- should auld (acquaintance@be.forgot), September 22, 1999.

My city in S. California has had First Night for 5-8 years now. (my memory wavers)...sites all over the city for entertainment, a few hours culminating in a fireworks display in the high school stadium. I've never participated, and have not seen signs advertising it yet. Think I'll toddle over to city web site and find out what additions to the festivities they have if any for Y2K contingency.

-- Donna (moment@pacbell.net), September 22, 1999.

Very interesting. I spent a lot of time pestering City Hall about Y2K last summer and fall, attended city council meeting, sent email (to which, I might add, I received no reply). The city web site has extensive calendar of events for this year...last event listed for 1999 calendar is December 21. Picks up again in February 2000 with more public activities. I did a site search for mention of First Night, and came up empty. Just coincidence? I wonder. Think I'll do some more digging.

-- Donna (moment@pacbell.net), September 22, 1999.

All sounds logical and well thought out, except..........doesn't it start on the east coast at 8pm? Isn't y2k based on GMT???? Doesn't that mean the lights will go out in NYC at 8pm (if they are going to go out at all). Sure wish someone would clear this confusion in my poor head.


-- Taz (Taz@aol.com), September 22, 1999.

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