Juneau's youths celebrate the century they will inherit

Posted: Sunday, January 02, 2000

Some of Juneau's young people greeted the year 2000 with a prolonged solid scream at the Millennium Snowball at the Nugget Mall. It's their century coming up, after all.

Some teen-agers kissed and others held their hands over their ears. One woman sure picked the wrong time to use the public phone.

Many youths had been dancing at one end of the mall to the last song of the year when they sensed the time had come. They ran, trailing white streamers in the dimly lit mall, to the center court, where a large screen was showing the CNN broadcast of Anchorage's countdown to midnight. So they joined the world.

Organizers said they sold more than 800 tickets to the five-hour celebration, but many youths drifted away early.

There were still plenty of people to form a tightly packed throbbing pod on the dance floor. It wasn't an accommodation to the cramped architecture.

``Even at the high school, they dance right in front of the speakers. That's it,'' said Robin Eleazer, one of the adult organizers.

``This is the biggest dance I've gone to in three years,'' said Jason Kaeser, 17. ``Of course, it's the millennium - the big hype leading up to the end of the world.''

The whole world was having a party, Kaeser noted. ``If the world ends, we're all going together. If it doesn't, we had the party.''

Alison Gaines, 17, wondered about the worldwide festivities. ``I don't understand why China's celebrating if they celebrate a different new year.''

Meanwhile, about 250 11- to 14-year-olds turned up at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School for an all-night party, a fund-raiser for the Juneau Soccer Club.

Up to midnight they wandered between thumping music in the commons, lit by white Christmas lights, and a different kind of thumping - of basketballs - in the gym. The big difference between a middle school dance and a high school dance is high-schoolers actually dance.

``At midnight, there's going to be a ball dropping. It's going to be really awesome,'' said Greta Thibodeau, 13. ``It's really good that kids are out here instead of deciding to drink on this night.''

Some kids were scheduled to be picked up by parents after midnight.

``Most are here for the duration,'' said chaperone Sheryll Cox, 40.

Like many people, Cox wasn't sure this New Year's was such a big event. But somehow it still provoked reflection.

``It's just another night, another day,'' she said. ``I guess it is kind of neat to think about all the things that have happened in the last 100 years.''

Cox's own grandmother, now 86, traveled across America in a covered wagon to a sod home in Colorado, yet lived into the age of space exploration.

``So you think, how far is it going to go by the end of our lifetime? It's hard to imagine,'' Cox said.

``Back in the 1960s, a TV was good and NASA used Macs,'' said Jonathon Wendel, 11. ``And now the average home uses Macs and NASA uses big computers.''

Eventually, homes will have even stronger computers and NASA will have something else, Wendel said. But he doesn't see the future as all ``Jetsons'' stuff.

The future will be different ``because eventually ozone is going to deplete and radiation is going to kill us all,'' Wendel said, thinking of another sort of Armageddon.

``That'll be in 1,000 years, Jonathon,'' said Kyle Drapeaux, 12. ``We'll all be dead, so don't worry about it.''

Wendel had his own take on when the millennium starts.

``Actually, the new millennium was in 1964 because the person who counted the years did it wrong,'' he said.

Still, Wendel didn't put all his stock in the 1964 theory. ``I wonder if my watch is going to go haywire?''

At the Zach Gordon Youth Center, Tiffany Howard, 7, was the hostess for the New Year's celebration, making sure everyone signed in.

``I'm going to go to the party and I'm going to jam out,'' said Carl Liberty Jr., 9. ``It's kids' night.''

Shane Eakes, 19, was helping out at the climbing wall so youths would have a place to be, other than the streets.

``I'm glad these guys are having fun, because the future's in their hands,'' he said.

Eakes, who said he takes it one day at a time, wasn't sure the new century would be any different from the 20th century. But maybe.

``It's another fresh start,'' he said. ``Maybe we can do it right this time. Maybe we can do it peaceful.''

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