Some New Year's bashes will be a bust

December 28, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

New Year's Eve 1999 was supposed to be the bash of the century, but computer jitters, concerns over terrorism and other factors have forced organizers to cancel or scale back some local parties.

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A millennium parade scheduled for New Year's Eve in Waynesboro, Pa., and a dinner in Frederick, Md., have been canceled due to lack of interest, for instance.

A New Year's party set for Martinsburg, W.Va., has been put off until March because organizers did not sell enough tickets.

Ken Koll, chairman of Waynesboro's New Year's Eve celebration, said organizers initially planned to build the event around a parade in which people would dress in period clothing from 1 A.D. to 3000.


Only three people signed up to participate, Koll said.

"There was really no interest in the first place," he said. "With three registrants, there was no way we could have pulled off a parade."

Instead, Koll said the event has shifted focus to various entertainers who will perform throughout the evening. Among the 16 activities are karaoke and ice sculptures.

Frederick's big event, First Night Frederick, will still go off Friday night. But a side event, A Masquerade Ball of the Decades, has been canceled.

The idea was for people to go to Brewer's Alley dressed in costumes representing the different decades of the 20th century. Proceeds from the $75-per-person event would have helped pay for millennium events the city will stage throughout the year.

But project manager Kim Sutherland said too few people bought reservations.

The story was much the same in Martinsburg, where the Family Resource Network has postponed the Millennium 2000 Celebration of the Family.

"We had low ticket sales, due probably to the Y2K scare," said Jennifer Shore, an Americorps volunteer with the Family Resource Network. "The majority of people just wanted to stay home with their families."

The tobacco-free and alcohol-free party would have included food, swimming, games and a disc jockey.

Shore said the party will be rescheduled for March, although a date has not been determined.

The local cancellations come amid what is shaping up to be a disappointing holiday across the country, considering the lofty expectations that have been building for years for the so-called end of the millennium.

Cruise lines and resorts that once charged thousands of dollars for the final week of December now find themselves with empty space.

The mayor of Seattle this week, citing concerns about possible terrorism, canceled that city's grand millennium sendoff at the landmark Space Needle.

Koll said he suspects news accounts questioning whether major cities would be prepared for the date rollover on computers spooked some people into passing on the more grandiose events.

"You put that in the press and nobody wants to be standing in Times Square," he said.

Koll, a computer technician by profession, faulted the federal government for not doing enough to reassure the public.

The confusion, however, could actually help local New Year's celebrations. Koll said some people have told him they decided to make New Year's plans for closer to home instead of traveling.

"The paranoia has kind of helped our event," he said. "I think our event is going to be better because places like New York, D.C., and Baltimore are lacking."

Recent cancellations also have freed up previously unavailable entertainers. Koll said the Waynesboro group hired two clowns and a magician who had been booked.

Several area hotel officials said they have done brisk business with New Year's packages.

Venice Inn General Manager Joe Bencivenga said the Dual Highway hotel began taking reservations for its New Year's party in September, much earlier than he has experienced at the other hotels he has worked for over the years.

"I've only had to advertise once, which is amazing," he said.

The Country Inn in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and the Plaza Hotel in Halfway, are booked for New Year's Eve.

There is still space at some establishments, however.

Nancie McNew, the sales coordinator for Four Points Sheraton Hotel on Dual Highway, said about half of the rooms at the hotel are available. The hotel is offering a New Year's package that includes champagne, a room and a New Year's Day breakfast.

"I thought, being 2000, there would have been a lot more," she said.

Staff Writer Kerry Lynn Fraley contributed to this report.

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