The turn of a millennium happens once every 30 generations; we should thank our lucky stars many of us will get to experience it . . . next year. Or course that wee miscalculation hasn't stopped everyone and her brother from creating a special NYE-Y2K event complete with balloon drop, party hats, midnight toast, and whopping price tag. Fortunately there are a few exceptions. And, happily, the forces that be have conspired to keep people out of their cars and transportation costs way, way down. The CTA costs just a penny, free holiday trolleys run between State Street and Navy Pier from 10 AM to 3 AM, and several radio stations are sponsoring free taxi rides home. If you absolutely must get behind the wheel, there's free coffee at Illinois tollbooths. For updates check the New Year's Eve listings on our Web site at www.chicagoreader.com.
2000-Minute Dance Party
Dance til the Dawn of the New Millennium
Here, there, everywhere
Imagine a city-state where the leader oppresses his constituents by convincing them they want to dance a silly dance. The regime puts this dance on a video and a CD and on the side of a bus, names a Slurpee after it, and not-so-gently encourages the peasants to learn it on the last day of 1999. Welcome to turn-of-the-millennium Chicago. To mark the occasion, the city will host 200 Milly Moments across town. The party runs from 9 AM December 31 to 6:20 PM January 1, and includes many, many events. The Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington, 312-744-4106) offers Milly lessons for seniors from 10 AM to noon, to be followed at 1 PM by a free taping of the all-ages Chic-a-go-go cable TV dance show. The DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E. 56th Pl., 773-947-0600) hosts a black-tie-optional Kid's New Year's Eve--a combination dance party and arts and crafts event, where kids will learn to dance the Milly and make their own New Year's hats and party favors. The art part is from 10 to 11 AM, under the guidance of the Little Black Pearl Workshop. The dancing starts at 11, with the mixed-abilities Dance > Detour Dance Company leading the Milly and "whatever dances kids do these days." At 1 PM kids can watch Dance > Detour perform or continue to cut their own rug to music spun by WVAZ FM DJ Bonnie DeShong. Reservations are required; it's $5 or pay what you can. There's also something called International Dance Around the World at O'Hare International Airport (773-686-3555) and a whole lot of Milly lessons taking place at any number of Park District locations, dance schools, museums, YMCAs, and other sites.
Festival Hall B
For indoor types, Festival Hall B houses a Family Fun Festival, and will be divided into several activity zones, including a game center (with a bungee run, giant slide, climbing wall, and golf range) and an arts and crafts area called the Millennium Mile. Columbia College kicks off October's DanceAfrica 2000 festival ten months early with performances by Najwa Dance
Corps, Muntu Dance Theater, Kalidah North African Ensemble, and Chuck Davis, in the performance area from 7 to 8:30 PM. There'll also be a DJ from 4 to 6 PM, and the band BBI plays from 8 to 11:45 PM.
Upscale dress and reservations are required for this three-course sit-down dinner hosted by Phil Stefani Restaurants. The shindig also includes appetizers, an open bar from 8 PM to 1:30 AM, a dessert buffet, the de rigueur midnight toast, and dancing to music by Nancy Hays and the Robert Benson Orchestra. At midnight guests can watch the Ferris wheel countdown and fireworks through the glass-enclosed gardens or via closed-circuit TV. Seating starts at 7:30 PM; the $250 price tag does not include tax or tip.
Festival Hall A
If WXRT had a house band, it would have to be the BoDeans. The Waukesha crooners will be joined by Matthew Sweet and 14-year-old blues singer Shannon Curfman to headline the millennial Rock 'n' Roll Ball, which runs from 8 PM to 2 AM. Guests must be 21 or over; the $135 admission fee gets you ten food-and-drink tickets, party favors, and a view of the fireworks. Or you can stay home and catch a glimpse of the festivities on ABC, when Peter Jennings checks in on cities around the world at midnight and this drunken crowd represents Chicago.
Ice rink, outdoors on the pier
This is a rare find in the thicket of New Year's Eve activities--something that's both free and open to people of all ages. The ice rink is open from 10 in the morning until midnight; just before the clock strikes 12 you can turn around and watch the concentric rings of lights on the giant Ferris wheel count down the remaining seconds, then view a 15-minute fireworks display. Skate rental is $3-$3.50.
Spirit of Chicago
Is it safer to hang out with a boatload of drunks dressed to the nines or in an airplane full of foreign dignitaries? It'll cost you $499--more than a round-trip fare from Chicago to New York City--to find out. That's $998 per couple for a jaunt from McCormick Place to Montrose Harbor on the luxury 600-passenger craft. The cruise includes two bands, two decks, party favors, an open bar, a fancy dinner, a champagne toast, primo seats for the city's fireworks display, and dockside dancing until 1 AM. For an additional $300 per couple (that comes to $1,298, not including formal wear) they'll let you sleep it off at the Crowne Plaza Silversmith, 10 S. Wabash. The boat sails at 9 PM from Navy Pier.
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
At the Field Museum's family-friendly Celebrating New Beginnings festival, visitors can create their own musical instruments, check out the museum's insect collection (Y2K "bugs"--get it?), and add their family photo to the Project Millennium Community Tree. There will also be dance lessons from (surprise) the "Milly Ambassadors," and performances by Childsplay (children's theater), Stars of the South Pacific (Maori dance), Grupo Umbral (Andean music), and Stillwater Productions (interactive drumming). It's all from 11 AM to 4 PM and is free with museum admission ($7 adults, $4 for children and seniors).
Museum of Science and Industry
57th and Lake Shore Drive
Approximately 50,000 lights were used to illuminate the 40 trees in the Museum of Science and Industry's Christmas Around the World/Holidays of Light exhibit. They were decorated by various cultural organizations from around the city. The festivities also include demonstrations of winter solstice rituals from around the world. Die-hard neotraditionalists might also want to check out Barbie, G.I. Joe, Jane and Johnny West, Lincoln Logs, and other pre-Pokemon toys at the museum's Kid Stuff: Great Toys From Our Childhood exhibit. The museum is open from 9:30 AM to 4 PM. Admission is $7 for adults, $3.50 for children, and $6 for seniors.
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park
The Garfield Park decorators see those 50,000 lights at the Museum of Science and Industry and raise them with their display of an alleged one million twinkly lights. Good for the congested--nothing clears clogged, dry nasal passages like a blast of humid hothouse air--the conservatory's free Celebration in Lights is open from 9 AM to 8 PM and runs through January 10. Santa and the gang, who usually accompany the exhibit, are taking New Year's Eve off "because they need a holiday, too." But a free trolley between the conservatory and the Drake Hotel (140 E. Walton), the Chicago Marriott (540 N. Michigan), the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington), and the Chicago Hilton & Towers (720 S. Michigan) runs hourly from 10 AM to 6 PM.
2936 N. Southport
30 dance companies, and nearly 200 dancers, have four minutes each to perform their "last dance of the millennium" in this three-hour Dance Countdown, which showcases a wide range of Chicago dance from ballet and modern to Irish step dancing. The performance is from 6 to 9 PM; tickets are $10.
50 E. Congress
This morning's Tai Chi Sunrise Celebration is part of the city's ubiquitous dance party because "tai chi and other martial arts forms have been an accessible means through which to explore the process of creating dance in different cultures and the relationship of dance to everyday
life." The hour-long class starts at 9 AM, is open to all levels (first-timers welcome), and will be led by instructor Rae Beamus. Slots for the class will be doled out on a first come, first served basis; afterward you'll be rewarded with a free continental breakfast.
2135 N. Milwaukee
Organizers are billing this "the largest gay dance event of the century." Some 5K attendees are expected at this Gay Y2K party sponsored by Circuit nightclub. The all-night (9 PM to 9 AM) event features DJs Hugo, Tim Cleary, Teri Bristol, and Freddie Baims, as well as the live music of dance-track artists Funky Green Dogs. General admission is $95; for $175 you'll be admitted to the VIP area, and all events at Circuit (3541 N. Halsted) over the weekend, including Sunday's "tea dance," which begins at the genteel hour of 6 PM and continues until three in the morning.
55 E. Ohio
The family-oriented Launch Into the Millennium bash runs from 8 PM to 1 AM and will be emceed by Radio Disney DJ Greg "the G Man" Dellinger. The $49.99-plus-tax entrance fee gets you an unlimited game card. Food and drink cost extra.
Hyatt Regency Chicago
151 E. Wacker
Hyatt chief engineer Tom Feilen and his staff of 12 have created a 500-pound ball similar to the one that drops in Times Square each New Year's Eve. Their ball, which is a traveling light show complete with fireworks, will drop 200 feet from the top of the hotel at midnight and travel 50 feet per minute. The ball drop should bring together the three disparate groups partying under the Hyatt's roof: the Pink Flamingos headline in the Grand Ballroom, the Joseph Vessia Orchestra swings in the Columbus, and there's a 70s/80s dance bash in the Wacker. Tickets are $75 and include admission to all three parties, plus three drinks and the chance to wave at mom on Channel Two, broadcasting live all night from the hotel.
1545 W. Jackson
312-427-2572 or 312-559-1212
An all-night dance party presented by Latin Street Dancing, Latin Dance 2000 fuels dancing feet with an all-you-can-eat buffet from 6 to 9 PM. Nelson Sosa y Su Trio plays boleros, tangos, bossanovas, and sambas at 7:30 PM; Casolando (Spanish rhumba) and Jesus Enriquez (salsa and merengue) play
(in separate rooms) at 10:30 PM, and DJ Juan Carlos spins dance music until 4 AM. Lisa "La Boriqua" offers dance lessons for the bewildered at 9:30 PM, and at midnight there'll be a champagne toast, as well as the traditional Spanish "12 Grapes of Fortune" grape-eating ritual. Ticket prices are graduated: $50 in advance/$55 at the door for admission between 6 and 9 PM, $40 in advance/$45 at the door for admission between 9 PM and 12:30 AM, and a flat $20 at the door for admission after 12:30 AM.
Murder Mystery Productions
Reza's, 432 W. Ontario;
Bice, 158 E. Ontario
One can only hope that the jacked-up prices of everything from champagne to off-off-off-off-Loop shows get left behind with the 1900s. In the meantime A Dinner Party to Die For has gone from $49 to $225 per person for the evening. The price includes an opportunity to act in a murder mystery play; you also get an open bar from 8 PM to midnight, a champagne toast when the clock strikes 12, and, of course, dinner. There's dancing after midnight at Reza's, and if you're lucky they may post a picture of your high jinks on their Web site. The event is being staged at two downtown locations and several suburban ones as well (see Suburbs).
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
The New Year's Eve schedule for the Botanic Garden's holiday festival features carriage rides, craft making, storytelling, ice sculpting, and two performances by folk band the Green Brothers. The festival runs from November 26 to January 2; hours are 4 PM to 10 PM (9 PM Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Nonmember admission is $6 for adults, $4 for children under 12. Members pay $4 and $2, respectively, and get free parking to boot.
First Night Aurora
Millennium Plaza between Galena Boulevard and Downer Place, Aurora
Aurora's First Night celebration coincides with the opening of that town's Millennium Plaza. Activities start at 3 PM with live performances of an indeterminate nature followed by a community procession from 5 to 6 PM, when the grand opening and "Kids' Countdown" will be led by Mayor David Stover. There's more entertainment from 7 to 11:45 PM, plus live mannequin windows, arts-and-crafts workshops, horse-drawn carriage rides, and "every genre of music." It ends with a midnight fireworks display and laser show over the Fox River, complete with music. Admission is $5.
First Night Evanston
First Night Plaza at Orrington and Davis, Evanston
The first 100 people who show up for the Rhythm Revolution Drum Circle at First Night Evanston will be given noisemakers. Most of the 10,000 expected timekeepers should bring their own, and expect a cacophony of sounds as the downtown churches ring their bells. "Even people in their bunkers will realize that something is happening," says one of the organizers. The noisemaking starts just before the fireworks, at 11:30 PM. The rest of the alcohol-free festivities start at 6 PM at a number of stages and locations; presentations include craft making, storytelling, ice sculpting, and puppet theater. Performers include the Midnight Circus, Mariachi Juvenil Tenoxtitlan, Honeyboy Edwards and Devil in a Woodpile, Freeze Dried, Chicago Mask Ensemble, and Jazmer. Admission buttons are $8 if bought before December 14, $10 for procrastinators.
Historic Pleasant Home
217 Home Ave., Oak Park
Revelers are encouraged to wear turn-of-the-last-century garb to Pleasant Home's unique Tale of Two Centuries dinner, which starts at 7:30 PM and includes dancing and an open bar. The $100 admission also includes a silent auction, horse-drawn carriage rides, and the general ambience of the 100-year-old Prairie-style mansion. It's also booked solid, but interested parties can put their names on a waiting list.
Murder Mystery Productions
2815 Jorie Boulevard, Oak Brook; Radisson Hotel,
2875 N. Milwaukee, Northbrook
The interactive murder mystery A Dinner Party to Die For is being staged at two suburban locations and two in downtown Chicago (see Chicago). Suburban events carry higher price tags--$250 per person or $650 per couple in Oak Brook, and $225 per person, $650 per couple in Northbrook--but the per couple rates include an overnight hotel stay. The price includes the opportunity to act in a murder mystery play, plus an open bar from 8 PM to midnight, a champagne toast, dinner, tax, and tip, and dancing at the Northbrook location.
178 Forest Ave., Oak Park
Despite the name, there's no temporal dress code at this nonprofit charitable organization's Swing Into the Millennium dance; even black tie is optional. The fin de siecle fete runs from 8 PM to 1 AM; tickets are $100 and include a live swing band, hors d'oeuvres, dinner, and an open bar.
Windy City South Side
American Legion Hall
6050 S. Harlem, Summit
If their New Year's party is any indication, jitterbuggers are open-minded folks. Ballroom, country line dancing, the fox-trot, and the cha-cha are included in tonight's program (no word yet on the Milly). Dress is semiformal, and the $30 admission ($20 if reserved before December 15) gets you dancing, a cold buffet, and all that other celebratory stuff we've come to expect. The party starts at 8 PM.