Event Programming for the Millennium

Article excerpt

As we approach the new millennium, it is an obvious understatement to suggest that the world is vastly different today from what it was nearly one thousand years ago. One very major difference is the popularity of event tourism. As the new millennium draws near, expect thousands of celebrations and festivals, visual and literary performance-art events, and culturally historical reenactments to take place.

A recent look on the Internet revealed thousands of millennial events in the planning process worldwide. These include planning efforts managed by a wide variety of event organizers and hundreds of park and recreation professionals. Millennial events will undoubtedly celebrate, commemorate, and create playfully oriented leisure experiences for public consumption. And the public will be all too willing to consume, as is demonstrated by the growing number of people participating in recreation and tourism-related events.

The number and variety of events have steadily increased this decade. Bruce Skinner (1998), executive director for the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA), reported that his group's professional membership has grown from 400 to more that 2,400 since 1991. IFEA's event figures show that there are 10 times more events today than there were 15 years ago.

Event managers are at the forefront of planning and providing these millennial events, which will often be offered in partnership with park and recreation and other community-based organizations, private and public groups in collaboration with one another, and sponsors representing local and national businesses. Many millennial events are anticipated to be mega-events that will draw large crowds. Thus, they can be viewed as destination events that will attract visitors from worlds both far and near.

Park and recreation professionals are well positioned to play an important role in event design and implementation. Our knowledge to plan and provide the "recreation experience" - along with the sheer magnitude of this event-has prompted many professionals to take the initiative in coordinating these special community, regional, and national events. Expectations are particularly high for these marker events to contribute to economic and community well-being. In addition, there is a special understanding that these events will serve as celebrations of hope for the future.

Millennial Opportunity

History shows that people have - and will have -- diverse reactions to the turning of a new millennium. Reports cluster around negative and positive expectations that are supported by a variety of beliefs and folklore. Predictions include everything from hysteria, doomsday scenarios, and catastrophes to opportunities for personal and institutional reflection and reassessment (Lorie, 1995).

Park and recreation professionals, whose primary responsibility is leisure programming, appear to exhibit more examples of positive responses to the approaching millennium. Not only are people seeking greater personal development and fulfillment through their leisure activities, they are looking to professionals to create opportunities and activities to express and experience their passions. Local, national, and international organizations are part of a team that produces and advocates the benefits of recreation programs and services dedicated to bringing health, well-being, happiness, and the personally meaningful use of free time to a rewarding quality of life. In addition, leisure professionals bring their own unique interpretation of what the millennium means to them when they consider ways to create and produce millennial leisure experiences for others.

Economic and Social Benefits

The new millennium offers people the recreational opportunity to engage in the right for the pursuit of happiness. Given the increased interest in event programming, watch for an even greater frequency of special events, festivals, and celebrations. …