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ANN CONWAY

Millennium Ball Is Ideal Time to Put on a Show for the World to See

January 12, 1998|ANN CONWAY

It was The Big Question posed at holiday parties: Where will you be New Year's Eve, 1999?

Gee, you weren't sure. The top of Mt. Everest holds so few people. The Seattle Space Needle is booked.

Not to worry. Former Disneyland executives Jack Lindquist and Steve Clark have an answer for you: the "New Year's Eve Millennium Ball" right here in Orange County.

With all the spectacle of a Disney

production, you can celebrate the beginning of the third millennium at the Tustin Marine Corps Air Facility in a hangar bigger than the Superdome.

The gala for up to 25,000 people will be the social centerpiece of a two-year celebration-- beginning next January--

produced by Lindquist and Clark. The project, coined The Class of 2000, has been adopted by the Orange County Business Council as its official millennium celebration.

Lindquist hopes the project will put Orange County on the international map. "We don't have a solid image or an identity," says Lindquist, the former president of Disneyland who is widely credited for helping make it a world-famous tourist attraction.

"We're one of the world's great, unknown stories. Maybe we're not very important as 32 cities, but, put them all together, and we're one of the most energetic, dynamic economies in the world. So, lets tell the world about it."

Besides the New Year's Eve gala, The Class of 2000 also has on its drawing board 64 tentative events that include a Pacific Rim Tourism Conference and a salute to the U.S. Military timed to its 1999 departure from El Toro. An official O.C. send-off for the U.S. Olympic Team--when it heads for Australia in January 2000--is also under consideration.

"Orange County can use the millennium to stretch itself," says Lindquist, who retired from Disneyland in 1993.

Thematic drawings have also been executed that portray a Millennium Park at the air base featuring food and merchandise facilities and an Orange County Pavilion.

Class of 2000 events are being planned in the areas of economic development, tourism, education, sports, community, lifestyle and global image. Signature O.C. events will also be included in the celebration, Lindquist notes. An example: the annual Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters.

"Our celebration will elevate and magnify events such as these," says Lindquist. "You can't improve on the pageant, but maybe for two years the pageant can portray some works that are Orange County-oriented, whether it be a mission or some of our great orange-crate art."

The idea for an Orange County millennium celebration came to Lindquist and Clark during an informal business meeting about two years ago.

"We started talking about it and got excited for obvious reasons," says Clark, who worked with Lindquist when he was at Disney. "First, it was a date nobody could change. Second, we weren't going to get another shot at this."

They presented the idea to leading members of the Orange County business community, who in turn recommended it to the Orange County Business Council in Irvine. (The nonprofit council was established two years ago when the Orange County Chamber of Commerce & Industry merged with the Industrial League of Orange County.)

"The next thing you know, on May 15 of last year, we were approved by the council board," Clark says. "Jack and I are the producers, the hired help. It's our job to showcase and salute Orange County's people, places, programs and projects."

Lindquist and Clark plan to make a formal announcement about the project during a press conference March 11 at the Tustin base. They've invited the president and the first lady, though there is no word yet on whether they will attend.

"We want them here," says Lindquist, "We think there are several events during this celebration that they would like to attend."

Last fall, when the White House announced it was forming a committee to celebrate the millennium, Lindquist wrote the first lady, inviting her to attend the announcement ceremony.

."As far as we know," he says, "no other place in the country is going to be doing anything as significant as what we're proposing for Orange County."

Ever the optimists, Lindquist and Clark are betting one of the Clintons will show up. "It might help that Chelsea is right up the road at Stanford," says Clark.

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