Nearly a third of Ellis County's 26,651 citizens plan to attend a one-of-a-kind New Year's Eve party to celebrate what is popularly viewed as the beginning of the new millennium.
The event, called the "Gala 2000: Family Fest," will take place in Gross Memorial Coliseum and the adjoining athletic building, Cunningham Hall, on the Fort Hays State University campus.
Organizers are expecting 8,000 people to attend. That includes about 700 students from the two local high schools, Hays High School and Thomas More Prep-Marian. Tickets will be required to ensure that fire safety codes are not violated. The free tickets were distributed last week on a first come, first served basis by the sponsoring organizations: The Hays Daily News, Radio, Inc., Heartland Building Center, Hays Medical Center, Hays Medical Center Foundation, KAYS Radio, McDonald's, Sunflower Bank and Fort Hays State University.
Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, was in on the ground floor of planning for Gala 2000, and he quickly volunteered use of the university buildings because they can accommodate the large gathering and because he believed in the concept. "Families usually go their separate ways on New Year's Eve," he said. "Ushering in the year 2000 should be a time they can remember together as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Gala 2000 will make that possible."
Hammond also spearheaded the drive that netted sponsor contributions totaling about $60,000, which allowed the organizers to provide free admission. The event quickly became the hottest ticket in town not only because of its historic significance but also because of the variety and quality of the entertainment that will be available.
The doors at Gross Memorial Coliseum and Cunningham Hall will open at 6:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve. The FHSU Athletic Department will sell refreshments. All kinds of souvenirs will be available. A local studio, Pioneer Photography, will be available to take commemorative photos with appropriate backdrops.
Some of the activities will be age specific. Each of four spacious gymnasiums in Cunningham Hall will offer music and dancing targeted for children, for high schoolers, for adults and for adults over 50. The auditorium in the adjoining Gross Memorial Coliseum, with a capacity of 8,000, will be the site of main stage entertainment. That entertainment will include spectacular laser light shows and musical performances by a special Pop Singers group, by a blues-rock band, The Blue Healers, and by an a cappella quartet, The Best of My Boys. Main stage entertainment will begin at 8 p.m. The last laser light show will start at 11:47 p.m. and continue through the countdown to the New Year, ending a few minutes after midnight.
Gala 2000 is being produced by the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance and the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce. The idea for a community New Year's Eve party originated with the steering committee for the Ellis County Festival of Faith, an annual ecumenical Christian worship service.
Organizers want to create a fun, wholesome celebration for entire families. One venue will be available for prayer and worship, but the overall Gala 2000 event is pointedly not designed as a religious service.
Note to Editors/News Directors: For further information, or for assistance in making arrangements to cover Gala 2000: Family Fest, please contact the FHSU Office of University Relations at (785) 628-4206 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.