Naperville Milestones of the Millennium / 2000 to 2019

Above & Below / Longtime PN readers likely aren’t surprised our favorite photos from this millennium feature folks enjoying the Naperville Riverwalk from the top of Rotary Hill to the Riverwalk Amphitheater.

As we begin the 20th year in Naperville since the turn of the century, we’re wondering where you were 19 years ago on New Year’s Day?

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Looking back even before that New Year’s Day on January 1, 2000, Naperville and the rest of the 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 of commemorative bricks from private donors.

Y2K means ‘Year 2000’

Meanwhile, techies here and around the world 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” stories about 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.

Preparing to celebrate Y2K

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 off 75th Street.

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.

Folks wondered 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.”

Dean’s Fine Clothing has been a popular landmark in downtown Naperville since 1959.

Above / Dean’s Fine Clothing, an independently-owned business, has been a popular landmark in downtown Naperville since 1959.

Beginning the 3rd decade

It’s customary to celebrate 10-year increments of 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.

Yet, as we got to thinking, we became impatient about paying tribute for good development and recognizing recent changes. Rather than waiting until 2020, we decided we’d try to acknowledge local milestones that have occurred since Y2K as we begin the third decade of the third millennium.

Mindful of the recent census update that tallied Naperville’s population growth to 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 by reminiscing about some of the notable changes to the community since the turn to the third millennium.

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?

Then while searching online it hit us that 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.)

At 3PM Sun.,  Feb. 17, on stage in Wentz Concert Hall, the Naperville Municipal Band will celebrate Conductor Ron Keller’s 80th Birthday during the Winter Concert that also will mark the time the band began playing in 1859.

Above / At 3PM Sun.,  Feb. 17, on stage in Wentz Concert Hall, the Naperville Municipal Band will celebrate Conductor Ron Keller’s 80th Birthday during the Winter Concert that also will mark the time the band began playing in 1859.

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!

Celebration 2000

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!”

As the old familiar greeting, “Happy New Year,” is extended this New Year’s Day, January 1, 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.

We welcome your memories, too…

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 or its predecessor, the Julian calendar.

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!   —PN


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