Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.
On Dec. 31, 1999, Russia’s president Boris Yeltsin resigned from office, leaving Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as acting president. On May 17, 2000, Putin would be inaugurated to permanently fill the position. As over 2 million revelers in New York’s Time Square gathered to see the ball drop for the 95th time and marking the beginning of the new millennium, on the other side of the globe, Russians switched on their televisions for what most assumed would be Yeltsin’s New Year’s Eve address, and were surprised to instead see Vladmir Putin addressing citizens with the news of the resignation that occurred that day, and assuring the public that there would be no power vacuum, the rule of law and the constitution would be enforced, and assurances they should carry on as usual toasting to the health of their parents and children. Thanks to the internet, you can see that video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJI2_lw1gIQ), as well as several versions of the Times Square 2000 celebration at YouTube.com.
Cities prepare for Y2K
Throughout 1999, the mainstream media reported numerous stories hyping the possibility that the new millennium would mark the end of civilization because computers would freeze due to a programming glitch having to do with the way calendars inside millions of computers were programmed. The term “Y2K” was coined, referring to the Millennium Bug. Computer programmers worried that computers would not be able to distinguish between the year 2000 and 1900 because many programs represented four-digit years with only the last two digits of the year. The problem was first identified in 1997 and programmers had been strategizing and reprogramming ever since.
This week in the Great Bend Tribune, reports included one about the City of Great Bend installing a generator at the sewer lift station as a precautionary measure in case the computers controlling it were to shut down. City Clerk Wayne Henneke listed the efforts the city had made so far following an extensive study of all systems.
“The city did have to replace some computer equipment to get ready, especially in public safety areas, but that has been accomplished to keep police and fire departments up and running. Traffic signals have also been checked, in addition to the sewer treatment plant.
“Work has also been done at the airport, making sure not only the airport itself will be up and running, but that snow removal equipment will be ready too.”
There was a report detailing measures the City of Ellinwood had taken to protect their city as well. All departments had been assessed, the report stated.
“While no disruptions should occur because of the arrival of the year 2000, the city is taking additional precautions on Dec. 31.”
The city planned to staff the Ellinwood Power plant from 9 p.m. on Dec. 31 through 2 a.m. on Jan. 1 in case the city’s interconnect with the larger transmission power grid should fail.
“In the event this electric grid fails, the city has the capability of starting its generators and providing power. The ability to generate electricity locally insures that the water and sewer utilities, both dependent on electric power, will function.”
As people returned to work Monday, Jan. 2, systems continued to work, and little in the way of glitches were reported. After all the hype, a relatively few issues were actually experienced. The last three years’ efforts were largely successful.
“Two thousand 0-0 party over — oops! Out of time”
After all the Y2K fears, or perhaps because of them, New Year’s Eve that year was celebrated like no other, with record numbers of people turning out for public celebrations all over the world. For people of a certain age, one song encompassed the moment in time. Prince wrote and performed the song, “1999,” released in 1982, and re-released as an EP (extended play album) again in 1999. In 2000, he was in the midst of a legal battle with Warner Bros. over his right to his masters and to release more music, and adopted an unpronounceable symbol in lieu of his name and was referred to in the media as “the artist formerly known as Prince.” All this to say that 20 years ago, people were ready to “party like it’s 1999.”
The Tribune gave a run-down on the numerous celebrations and observances planned for the weekend. Ellinwood held a Millennium Ball at the St. Joseph’s Parish Center, featuring live music from J.D. Webster and Little Big Band. The City of Lyons held a Family Fun Night with movies and a midnight brunch in the high school gym. Several area churches planned celebrations too. The longest-lasting event was the Dominican Sisters of Peace three-day Peace Building Initiative that started Friday on New Year’s Eve and continued through Sunday. The public was invited to join the sisters for a half-hour of ecumenical prayer at 11:30 p.m., followed by ushering in the new millennium at midnight by ringing the bells in the chapel with light refreshments served in the dining room at the convent. On Saturday, the public was also invited to a brief ecumenical prayer service and the planting of a Peace Pole in the front yard of the convent.
The Elks Lodge, DJ’s and The Sports Page all planned special dinners, and offered live music and dancing to mark the New Year in Great Bend. We found no reports about incidents at these gatherings, so we gather a good time was had by all.
The tradition at the New Year for many communities is to announce and welcome the first baby born that year. But 2000 was special, and in Barton County, a boy from Kinsley was celebrated as the First Baby of the new millennium.
Kobe Alan Carey of Kinsley was born around 6 p.m. on Jan. 1. His parents, Tim and Kathy Carey, were not expecting him until Jan. 12. We did a quick search and learned Kobe attended South Barber High School in Kiowa, and played basketball for the Chieftains. His father Tim, the high school’s social studies teacher, was listed as the coach. Kobe graduated from SBHS in 2018. Wish him a happy 20th birthday if you should cross his path.