With the sound and light of Sunday night's fireworks still a fresh memory, the White House Millennium Council is aiming for a similarly ahh-inspiring extravaganza to usher Washington into the 21st century.
Officials say the New Year's Eve program, set to cap three days of events, will include a gala concert orchestrated by Quincy Jones and producer George Stevens Jr., a 20-minute movie by Steven Spielberg and an original score by Hollywood composer John Williams.
The official welcome to 2000 will resemble a presidential inauguration, Fourth of July celebration and Smithsonian Folklife Festival wrapped into one, with the logistical complications of the recent NATO conference, planners said. The celebration is expected to extend the length of the Mall, from Third Street to the Lincoln Memorial and along a half-dozen blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue.
"The overall theme is what we are calling an American millennium celebration for the nation," said Ellen Lovell, deputy assistant to the president and adviser to the first lady for the millennium council. "We wanted to do this in the capital and on the Mall with all the great symbols of our democracy."
The official slogan for the event is "Honor the past, imagine the future," Lovell said. The District of Columbia, Smithsonian Institution and National Park Service have joined in planning the event with the millennium council, an organization created by the Clintons about two years ago to plan the official celebration of the country's transition into the next millennium.
Lovell estimated the spectacle's price tag at $10 million, with funding to come from private donors. "We are very confident we will raise the money," she said. "This is a milestone in human history, and we feel donors will want to feel they have done something for their country."
She and others who spoke about the three-day celebration emphasized that the event will be fun but appropriate for families. Because the majority of the activities will take place on land under National Park Service jurisdiction, an existing alcohol ban will be in effect.
For Dec. 31, planners envision a celebration along the Mall and on Pennsylvania Avenue, with activities from the afternoon into the early evening. About 10 p.m., participants will join for a massive parade along Constitution Avenue to the Lincoln Memorial.
"We will tap into the American tradition of marching and parades," Lovell said. "We will have bands from a variety of American traditions such as the Mardi Gras and the Mummers."
The evening program, said Lovell, "will be a very stirring showcase of American talent with a definite patriotic theme but also very entertaining and fun."
During the evening, President Clinton will speak, and then at midnight, "we'd love to have something that would light up the skies, something very high-tech and imaginative," Lovell said. Music will continue into the morning hours, she said.
The monuments and the White House will become a stage or a backdrop to the events.
Lovell and others planning the event stressed that the program as they outlined it may change. No one was willing to name movie, cultural or athletic stars who have agreed to assist in the celebration other than Jones, Stevens, Williams and Spielberg.
The events leading up to the Dec. 31 gala are under the direction of Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian's director of folklife and cultural heritage and a veteran planner of numerous folklife festivals.
"We will have an all-American teach-in on the Mall," Kurin said. "The millennium is a transition, and in a basic way a transition from one generation to the next. We would like to bring people from the fields of sports, medicine, law, literature, science, music and so on--significant figures in their fields--and have them teach children."
Kurin envisions a line of tents along the middle of the Mall where various stars and experts will explain to children how they got started and what they have learned along the way.
"Children will get the benefit of what these figures have learned during their lives and people who came to the Mall may well remember 10 or 20 years later, that, 'yeah, that person showed me how to do that,' " he said.
The District government will be in charge of events on Pennsylvania Avenue that will last from the afternoon into the evening for the three-day weekend, said Sandy McCall, a special assistant to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). McCall said they plan to close several blocks of the avenue, build stages for concerts and arrange for vendors to create a large outdoor cafe.
He said the Smithsonian is expected to end its events by dusk and those crowds would most likely migrate to Pennsylvania Avenue for food and entertainment.
"This will be an opportunity for the entire region to come together as one community," McCall said. "I will be very happy to see people from far Southeast in a crowd with people from Fairfax, all singing whatever we will be singing."
McCall sees the New Year's weekend as a kickoff to a year-long celebration of the District as the city marks its 200th anniversary as the nation's capital. Called Renaissance Washington, the celebration will take place in the city's neighborhoods and on the Mall, McCall said.
CAPTION: A 20-minute movie by Steven Spielberg and a concert orchestrated by Quincy Jones are already slated for New Year's Eve 1999.
CAPTION: Officials expect an even bigger crowd--and mess--at New Year's Eve than at the weekend's July Fourth festivities.