Snafu 2000

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The lack of sponsorships is putting a squeeze on the CCC's bank balance. The CCC faces a $400,000 bill on December 29 to cover the costs of all entertainers and production expenses. After the contract cancellation fiasco in September, all entertainers wanted to be paid in full before the end of the century. If the CCC receives the expected $150,000 in sponsorships in addition to what is in the bank, the organization still faces a $216,000 shortfall.

The difference is expected to be made up by advance ticket sales at $10 per person. Ticket prices go up to $15 on the day of the event.

Whiting is confident the CCC will sell at least 21,000 tickets in advance, raising the money needed to meet the December 29 payment deadline.

"We don't think there is any problem at all," he says. "We expect 100,000 to 150,000 in attendance."

Originally planned to focus on musical themes from throughout the century, the concept of the event was scaled back after the September 1 budget reduction. One thing that was never cut back -- because it was never included in the format to begin with -- was a Latino entertainment element.

Joseph Romero, who owns Grupo Romero Incorporated, a Scottsdale public-relations firm, has been trying for several months to get a Latino act on board for the event. He's met some rather stiff resistance from the city and CCC officials.

Diane DeSantis, the city parks department liaison with the CCC, met with Romero and made it clear to him there would be no financial support for a Latino act.

In an e-mail to a CCC volunteer, DeSantis wrote, "I cleared up any confusion on who and how a Hispanic band would get to play at the event. He is looking into a Mexican band from Nogales. I told him it was up to him to provide the band and that there was no money."

In an interview, Romero says he's been trying to line up a local band to play for the Hispanic community, "more of a grass roots group versus the upper income." Romero expects to announce who, and where the acts will perform in the next week.

Romero says he's been promised financial support from Art Othon, an Arizona Public Service official, although he doesn't know how much it will be. Othon, who is on the CCC steering committee, reportedly is offering the money as a personal donation. He could not be reached for comment.

"It should be enough to cover the expenses of the musicians," Romero says of Othon's donation, which he says came to the Latino community's "rescue."

Unlike most of the mainstream entertainers, who demanded extraordinarily high fees, Romero says he's confident that the Latino acts will be booked for a reasonable amount.

"These people are not very greedy. All they want is to have the exposure," he says. "We know it's going to be affordable."

Woods said entertainers were selected to attract a broad cross section of the community. "We tried to get acts that everybody could enjoy," Woods stated. "There is no Spanish-speaking act (except the Pistoleros, who have some Spanish-language songs), and maybe that is something that should be done next year."

Woods noted that the entertainment also excludes rap, heavy metal, polka and marching bands.

"But overall, the musical acts represent a decent cross-section of the community," he stated.

With the Celebration 2000 party less than 29 days away, officials already are rethinking the volunteer-based approach to organizing such a huge event.

"Mainly, this has been a royal pain in the ass," Woods stated.

Not because his enthusiasm for the party has waned -- in fact, Woods said he is looking forward to "an unforgettable night of music and fireworks."

His frustration, which is not his alone, comes from the inherent nature of volunteer committees.

"The most difficult part has been dealing with volunteers who for some reason didn't get the job done in many areas," he said.

City parks office of special events director Irene Stillwell saw the problems emerging last summer and attempted to increase the city's role in organizing the event. It was a difficult task.

"Suggestions and timelines presented by staff in an effort to get things moving have been essentially ignored until recently," Stillwell wrote in analysis of the Celebration 2000 volunteer committee last June.

The reluctance to involve the city, which has an experienced staff that routinely organizes special events, slowly diminished, but only as panic set in.

"This is beginning to change due to a new sense of urgency among committee members when it became clear that there were only six months left to prepare," Stillwell stated in her June memo.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty