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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Mexico City Prepares for Serenade; Waiting to Get Married in Las Vegas

Aired January 1, 2000 - 0:45 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Here is a picture to take your breath away, midnight in Athens, the Acropolis, a 2,500-year-old structure, the citadel of ancient Athens built on a limestone hill, built in the golden age of Athens during the reign of Heracleas in the 5th century B.C. And it does take your breath away.

To North America now to Mexico, Mexico City. CNN's Harris Whitbeck is there as they await, in 14 minutes, the new millennium.

Harris?

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, you know, there's an old Aztec prophecy from the 14th century that said that while the world existed, there would be no end to the glory and the fame of Mexico. And the organizers of tonight's event have certainly kept that in mind as they've gathered over 200,000 people at Mexico's main square, the Zocalo (ph), here in downtown Mexico City. Now that celebration, of course, started many hours earlier, not only here in the Zocalo, but also on the streets of Mexico City.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITBECK (voice-over): It started early afternoon with street concerts on Mexico City's main thoroughfare. Mariachis, salsa singers, even hard rockers, were out to entertain thousands. Streets normally filled with traffic or demonstrators were today crowded with people out to have fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They like to celebrate a lot, every kind of festivities. And I think they do it quite well.

WHITBECK: And people expressing their hopes for the best in the new year. This man says 2000 is a year brimming with hope, hope that people will be more tolerant and generous to others. Throughout this city of 20 million people, the celebration of the start of the new millennium has been impossible to ignore.

Mexico City's monument to the revolution, a huge triumphal arch located in the heart of this city, was specially lit up. But the main center of attraction is the Zocalo, Mexico City's main square, where a huge party got underway as dusk fell on 1999.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITBECK: Judy, and that party is continuing now. We're only minutes away from midnight here, and we are waiting for about 200 mariachi bands that will be playing two serenades, one for the old year and one for the new one that's coming. The tradition here that you sing songs to people as you say goodbye to them and as you welcome them, and on their birthday. So that's what we'll be expecting here in the next few minutes.

Judy?

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Harris.

We've been reading of high security, Bernie, there in Mexico City. We're so happy to see that so far, all is smooth and happy.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: And happy. People are waiting in Mexico City. They're also waiting in Las Vegas, as is Laurin Sydney.

LAURIN SYDNEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They are waiting to get married. We are back here in Las Vegas overlooking that famous four-mile strip from our perch at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Now Y2K glitches are not expected to affect Vegas hitches. Gambling, drinking and show going aren't the only things to do here. Saying "I do" has become a very popular activity, especially this New Year's Eve.

We sent our Paul Vercammen, who is happily married, to the Little Chapel of the West to check out some New Years nuptials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dearly beloved, we are gathered here for a fast-forward version, a fast-break version of weddings in Las Vegas, many couples tying the knot this New Year's Eve. And these are now Mr. and Mrs. Baca from Orange County, California.

I understand you got married earlier. Why did you want to beat the year 2000 deadline?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I'm really into the old West. In fact, we go to Tombstone, Arizona every year on the anniversary of the gunfight at OK Corral, and I feel like with the 1900s, a lot of the old West is dying out. And 2000 sounds like space age, so we wanted to do it while it's still the 1900s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One last cowboy yee-haw.

VERCAMMEN: How are you feeling right now? Emotionally, you OK with all off this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was scarier than the ride on top of that stratosphere, but it was fun, it was OK. It was beautiful, really. It turned out really pretty.

VERCAMMEN: Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Baca, on your entry into marital bliss.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

VERCAMMEN: We should note that the Clark County clerk's office is putting on extra staff members because so many people are going to tie the knot in Las Vegas. The numbers are hard to estimate, but maybe up to 2,000 couples. So multiply by two, 4,000 people will get married here in Las Vegas, maybe the romance capital of the world right now.

I'm Paul Vercammen reporting from Las Vegas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYDNEY: And if you're in a hurry here, they even have a drive-in chapel.

Now one of the hottest tickets in town is the Divine Ms. Midler's Millennium New Year's Eve concert. Nobody does it better than Bette Midler, and we have a little bit of the beginning of her concert at Mandalay Bay. Here's a peak.

WOODRUFF: Well, we didn't get to hear Bette Midler, but we know she's a great singer, and we saw -- we saw her talking a little bit earlier today with Laurin Sydney. And here it is.

(BETTE MIDLER PERFORMING)

SYDNEY: She is indeed the Divine Ms. M. That's it for now, but we will have much more throughout the evening. There will be more Bette. There will be even some Barbra. So please stay tuned.

Reporting from our perch at the Four Seasons Hotel, which, by the way, Bernie and Judy, provides these recovery kit with all the makings to take care of any headaches that either of you might have throughout the evening. So if you want this, I'm more than willing to send it down to you. Just let me know, OK?

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Laurin.

SHAW: Who could get a headache from what we're doing. We're having too much fun.

WOODRUFF: So far, we don't need it. I don't think we're going to.

SHAW: Yeah, I can't wait to hear those 200 mariachi bands in Mexico City. That should be something.

WOODRUFF: That's right. We're going to take a break. Much, much more ahead. We'll be back.

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