As we begin the 20th year in Naperville since the turn of the century, we’re still asking where you spent New Year’s Day in 2000?
Looking back even before January 1, 2000, Naperville and the whole wide world already had begun preparing to wrap up the 20th century, anticipating the once-in-a-lifetime “Turn of the Millennium.” In fact, for several years, local residents had been planning future milestones made with bricks and mortar.
The Riverwalk 2000 Campaign was in full force, dedicated to raise funds for the extension of the winding brick path along the DuPage River from the Washington Street Bridge to Hillside Road.
In addition, Naperville’s Celebration 2000 hoopla was comprised of enthusiastic volunteers on countless committees planning extravaganzas and special family events from the Naperville Municipal Center to Merner Fieldhouse at North Central College. A vintage car show, food vendors and live entertainment were among activities scheduled throughout downtown for that momentous weekend.
Other folks wanted to create memorable “citizens’ gifts” to mark the occasion. Oh! So many fundraising initiatives. One group heightened awareness about an idea to build a 72-bell carillon, one of the largest musical instruments in the world. Another group presented an idea to design a labyrinth on the floor of Riverwalk Amphitheater, enhanced by a Millennium Wall, supported by commemorative bricks from private donors.
Y2K means ‘Year 2000’
Meanwhile, techies everywhere were preparing for a possible catastrophe called Y2K, meaning “Year 2000.” Billions of dollars were spent as panic mounted throughout the dot com community amid concerns that computers would go ballistic because in the 1900s to save bit space, computer technicians built the electronic devices with two digits to represent the year rather than the four digits that would be needed when midnight struck in the year 2000.
News reports carried countless “what if” accounts of passenger planes stalling in the sky, power failing that darkened and unlocked the world, and international banking institutions losing records. If something were electronic, the product likely would fail, folks feared.
Friends and neighbors stocked up on flashlights, batteries, canned goods and bottled water. A rumor spread on Dec. 30, 1999, that the only Naperville store with cases of bottled water was Buikema Hardware, then-located in Fox Run Square.
For Christmas, my fun-loving cousin gave us rolls of glow-in-the-dark Y2K toilet paper.
Fortunately, all that doomsday rhetoric and community-wide craziness ended up being mostly talk by computer programmers.
Y2K came with fireworks and celebrations and left very few electronic glitches.
News reports featured folks wondering if the world had been saved. Or if it all had been a hoax. Some folks still wonder.
All that was 19 years ago. Still, once in a while we encounter someone’s wearing a tattered t-shirt emblazoned with “I survived Y2K.”
Wrapping up the second decade
It’s customary to celebrate special benchmark occasions. For instance, in 2019 Dean’s Fine Men’s and Women’s Clothing at 226 S. Main Street will celebrate its first 60 years. Loaves & Fishes Community Services is recognized for its first 35 years.
We flashed back to Y2K, mindful of many good developments that welcomed change right here in Naperville. Rather than waiting until 2020, we decided we’d try to acknowledge local milestones that have made a difference before we begin the third decade of the third millennium.
Also mindful of the recent census update that tallied Naperville’s population growth at 147,841, up from 129,178 in 2000, we aim to inform newcomers who might not know how this thriving community developed along the banks of the DuPage River.
This month we’ll begin reflecting on recent history, reminiscing on notable changes to the community since the turn to the third millennium.
For starters, our focus likely will fall mostly on downtown and the individuals, past and present, who have helped create the lifestyle attraction in the heart of the city. Now a happening destination, downtown didn’t just happen.
In addition to being packed with storied and historic charm from the 1800s, today’s downtown represents can-do initiatives that began in the 1970s. Downtown prospers with shopping, dining and business opportunities as well as relative proximity to local government buildings and cultural amenities such as Central Park’s Community Concert Center, North Central College Fine Arts Center and Wentz Concert Hall, Naper Settlement, Nichols Library, Century Walk, the DuPage Children’s Museum and the Riverwalk.
When did the new millennium begin?
And wouldn’t you know? While searching online we discovered a discrepancy exists regarding the beginning of the new millennium. In contemporary history and according to the Gregorian calendar, the third millennium runs January 1, 2001, to December 31, 3000. That period of 1,000 years is distinguished from the other millennium known as the “2000s,” January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2999.
So for the sake of clarification and the Gregorian calendar, Naperville’s Celebration 2000 was held in a “year zero,” one year too early according to millennium purists. The 21st Century started on Mon., Jan. 1, 2001, so purists say. (Eight months before the first edition of PN was printed, we might add.)
Perhaps it’ll all seem clearer when you consider that the Naperville Municipal Band was founded in 1859, 160 years ago, but this year the NMB begins performing its 161st season!
No matter how you count the number of years in the third millennium, 2019 begins the 20th year since the weekend festivities of Celebration 2000. The monumental party attracted thousands of folks on a seasonably warm winter evening to downtown Naperville and many other spots around town such as May Watts Sled Hill to watch the fireworks after the Y2K countdown.
From the top of May Watts Sled Hill someone started “Ten…” and in unison everyone followed, “Nine… Eight… Seven… Six… Five… Four… Three… Two… One…” Fireworks blasted in the damp distance.
Dozens of folks turned around 360 degrees. All the porch lights were still shining. Cheers ignited as fireworks continued to light up the sky. Families, friends and neighbors had survived to shout, “Happy New Millennium!”
We welcome your memories, too…
For 2019, your PN editors will begin a year-long initiative to capture memories of local milestones that have developed since the end of the 20th Century on December 31, 1999.
This third millennium scenario cannot be told without mixing in the rich history that has been recorded since the arrival of Captain Joseph Naper and his family back in 1831. We’ll aim to connect recent developments to the dedicated risk takers from yesterday.
Yet, I guess we’d have to say, we’ll likely always wonder what to do with year zero since it does not appear in the Gregorian calendar we follow every day.
Enjoy this city, good health and happy social engagement as we go forward this next year. Pay attention to the issues and try to meet and greet the candidates campaigning in the upcoming Consolidated Election on April 2. Cheers to making good choices and fond memories in 2019!