The Smithsonian Institution is moving its New Year's millennium celebration indoors and scaling back the scope of the three-day event, a signal that fund-raising has not kept pace with the more ambitious party plans announced earlier by the White House.
Officials say that the Smithsonian activities, featuring prominent figures and programs in the arts, sciences and culture, will be just as stimulating and fun and that the New Year's Eve concert at the Lincoln Memorial and midnight fireworks will go on as scheduled.
Still, bringing the daytime events inside definitely will alter the character of the "Millennium on the Mall," which had been advertised as a panoply of "pavilions and museums stretching along the Mall from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument."
With just six weeks to go--and deadlines looming even sooner on contracts for performers and equipment--budget issues forced the decision, said Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian's director of the Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies. A major weekend program costs about $1 million, he noted, whereas the price tag can be three times that much for an outdoor event at which tents, generators, public amenities and security must be arranged.
Some programs and panel discussions may be combined because of space constraints. The plus, however, is that the indoor setting will be "a bit more intimate and a bit more focused." Also, Kurin noted, "it makes it warmer."
For now, the Smithsonian plans to use its Museum of American History, Museum of Natural History and the Hirshhorn Museum for an array of performances, demonstrations and talks Dec. 31 through Jan. 2. Baird Auditorium in the Natural History Museum holds fewer than 600 people, while Carmichael and Ring auditoriums at the two other sites have only 270 seats each.
The move parallels a decision last month by D.C. officials to downsize the festival they're planning along a four-block section of Constitution Avenue; instead of three days, their "Main Street Millennium" will take place Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
Together, the changes suggest that fund-raising targets for these mega-events were too ambitious or that the work to bring in the bucks started too late. Money concerns have greatly complicated planning--from putting down deposits on tents to confirming guest performers to concerns about losing deposits if venues change or are canceled.
"It takes a large effort that got started pretty late and that's running up against lots of other things," said one official involved with the national celebration.
"We've hustled like hell" to organize the District's festival, said mayoral assistant Sandy McCall. He said $800,000 is in hand or pledged for an event he expects to cost under $1 million. In addition, the D.C. financial control board has approved a $175,000 float loan from the Washington Convention Center Authority to use for millennium-themed programs through 2000.
But McCall concedes the lost opportunity: "If we'd started a year ago . . . "
Kurin declined Tuesday to say how much money he has received from America's Millennium, the entity coordinating all Mall events among three federal groups.
Its chief fund-raiser, Terry McAuliffe, the same lead money man for the Clinton presidential library, to name just one project, said he couldn't answer any questions about expenditures. He declined to specify how much of his $10 million target he's met but emphasized that, in the end, the fund-raising will do "exactly what we said we were going to do."
At a news conference with Hillary Rodham Clinton in late September, organizers pegged their budget at $12.5 million. America's Millennium executive director, Paul McCarthy, indicated this week that television rights cover the rest of the funding. CBS purchased the rights to broadcast the star-spangled New Year's Eve show, which is being produced by composer-musician Quincy Jones and filmmaker George Stevens Jr. Neither the producers nor the network will say how much CBS paid.
"You have to work it incremently, and it all comes together in the end," McCarthy said, voicing confidence in McAuliffe's ability to deliver the money. "Any privately funded program is a challenge."
McCarthy supports bringing the Smithsonian events indoors. "Not having to deal with the weather . . . probably will be a good thing," he said. "I think it's going to come together excellently."
Additional details of the New Year's Eve weekend program may be announced next week, organizers said, letting the general public know who is performing--as well as when and where. Some of the stars in the audience VIP section Dec. 31 may attract just as much attention: McAuliffe said Muhammed Ali, Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorcese have accepted invitations to be the Clintons' guests that night.
Although the District hopes to spend most of 2000 commemorating its bicentennial as the nation's capital, McCall said, the money raised so far will pay for the two-day New Year's festival on Constitution Avenue between 10th and 14th streets NW.
Most of that funding is coming from sponsorship commitments, he said. Pledges from five individuals and corporations make up a quarter of the $800,000, including one contribution of $100,000. Except for District Cablevision and America Online, which are sponsoring media and technology tents, McCall wouldn't identify contributors.
The reluctance of city and White House organizers to release more specific budget numbers and the names of sponsors and other contributors contrasts with the approach of Maryland 2000, the organization marking the millennial year in that state. The group has posted a sponsorship list on its Web site and, a spokeswoman said, raised about $850,000 of its $1 million goal.
Staff writer Angela Paik contributed to this report.