Millennium bash plans scaled back | AspenTimes.com

Millennium bash plans scaled back

John Colson

Local civic leaders have drastically scaled back plans for a community celebration on New Year’s Eve, when the calendar changes from the 20th century to the 21st.

In fact, what started out as a plan for a big community party in Wagner Park with music and fireworks has been trimmed to just a fireworks display at midnight, according to Patty Hecht of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

And the local cops will be out in force that night, no matter what size party is planned, said Deputy Sheriff Joe DiSalvo this week.

Hecht announced the present state of the millennium eve party plans at a “Y2K Preparedness” meeting on Wednesday. She said the ACRA, Aspen Skiing Co. and the city of Aspen had originally intended to spend $75,000 on a big millennium celebration, including a band to put on a concert on one of the downtown malls.

She said the chamber board decided three weeks ago to cut its party plan back, because “there was no, sort of, community support for it.”

She said a survey of the ACRA’s membership yielded “almost no response,” and that some local businesses were actively opposed to the idea because they have their own millennium celebrations planned.

For example, Hecht said, both the St. Regis Hotel and the Hotel Jerome are planning big parties. And, she said, there already are numerous private parties in the works, meaning that many of the potential volunteers for a free community party will be earning money by working on New Year’s Eve.

“So, rather than compete with what some of our businesses were doing, we just want to complement them,” Hecht said. The fireworks will cost about $30,000, she said, and the city and the Skico are still involved in the production.

Conceding that the decision eliminates the only large-scale, free public event available to local residents and workers, Hecht said she believes most locals will be “spending time with their families” that night.

She said the ACRA’s decision had “nothing to do with” concerns about the so-called “millennium bug,” which is expected to crash computers and possibly disrupt services worldwide when internal computer clocks turns over from Dec. 31, 1999 to Jan. 1, 2000.

DiSalvo, expressing relief that the big party was canceled, said the fireworks and general partying in the streets will be hard enough for police to handle.

“We were expecting a large party in Wagner Park with a couple to 3,000 people, some kind of youth celebration of the millennium,” DiSalvo said of his department’s expectations for the party. “Then we heard there would be a concert on the mall. Those two events in town were enough to overwhelm us.”

Even though the event has been scaled back, he said, “We’ve still got to be prepared for the general event [because] that means a lot of people on the streets of town at midnight.”

DiSalvo, who is the “incident commander” for New Year’s Eve preparedness, said the sheriff’s and police departments have worked out a cooperative agreement under which “basically everybody who works for the police and sheriff will be on duty that night. All leaves have been canceled.”


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