Tis the season to reminisce of holiday celebrations of years gone by, and none such event sticks in my memory quite like New Years’ Eve, 1999. A celebration night to rival all other celebrations of its kind, I recall the way thousands of New Englanders gathered at Foxwoods Resort Casino to usher a brand new millennium in the utmost of style.
Beaming columns of white light danced and twirled against the blackened winter sky, signaling the commencement of the most extravagant party around. Limousines crunched their way through frozen pockets of snow, greeted by sharply dressed, white-gloved attendants. Inside, a chorus of jingling slots, disco beats and cheering gamblers beckoned the new arrivals. A blur of faces, flashbulbs and confetti lined velvet roped red carpets leading into an exclusive soiree of high rollers, celebrities, athletes, business owners, politicians and tribal members clad in the finest evening wear, gemstones, glitter and furs.
The theme captured the allure of Hollywood, as if Studio 54 met Gatsby glamour on one extravagant night unlike any other, televised live worldwide. Whimsical clusters of film props cascaded along a soaring ceiling. A Star Ship Enterprise replica, a crashing airplane, the Hollywood sign reproduction and random Star Wars paraphernalia were among a few that caught my attention.
Throughout the room, troupes of professional dancers and acrobats twirled, flipped and shimmied the night away like glittering eye candy in perfect synchronicity, luring guests to join in as music filled the atmosphere. Steps away, disco diva Donna Summer took center stage, revving the crowd into a swaying frenzy while belting out her familiar list of sing-along standards and 70’s ballads.
Last Dance…last chance for love.
My tired eyes, red from exhaustion, remained wide with amazement as I fixed my gaze upward while twirling among the dancing multitudes. For one fleeting moment, I felt like a princess. Thousands of balloons and iridescent confetti gently fell from the ceiling, blanketing the crowd while a sea of clinking of crystal flutes rang celebratory toasts for a new millennium of hope and promise.
The shining fanfare of that night faded predictably into the dawn of the new year, beckoning the ripeness of another new beginning. And then another. Yet, as each year passed, the uneasy foreboding of silent truth seemed to warn of what few would be able or willing to recognize for quite some time:
It’s all too good to be true.
Having settled into the ease that comes with wealth and privilege, the early successes of this gambling mecca unlike any other made it quite natural to assume we would remain wealthy the rest of our lives. Would it be possible to sustain the lifestyles of our rapidly growing community for decades to follow, or would winds of change one day arrive to reveal hidden weaknesses within gaming’s seductive façade?
At that time, none of us could fully understand how, when, or why such change might happen. Nevertheless, the clues of the inevitable would soon begin to manifest.