DALLAS (Reuters) - Anticipating worldwide attention on an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Dallas city officials on Thursday opened an electronic lottery system for distributing 5,000 free tickets.
The ceremony will mark the first time the city of Dallas has formally celebrated the memory of Kennedy, who was slain by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963, as he rode in a motorcade through the center of downtown.
The death of the popular president shocked the world, spawned government conspiracy theories, and tainted Dallas as the "City of Hate." City leaders have since shunned publicity of that tragic moment - even as crowds gather each year at the site, known as Dealey Plaza, on the anniversary.
"His death forever changed our city, as well as the world," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. "The story of Dallas' growth and success can only be understood in the context of this unspeakable tragedy. It's important that the city of Dallas has a strong voice in remembering this very solemn day and honoring a great president."
Tickets for "The 50th" may be requested through July 31 at www.50thHonoringJohnFKennedy.com.
Requests will be put into a secure database, with names randomly selected electronically for tickets and a waiting list, officials said.
The names will be screened by Dallas police for security purposes, and those approved for tickets will be notified in early October. City officials said security will be a top priority for the event.
Large video screens will be set up throughout downtown for the thousands of non-ticketholders expected to be in Dallas for the event.
The ceremony will be held at 11:45 a.m. local time on November 22, 2013, at Dealey Plaza, with church bells and a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m., the time Kennedy was shot.
Presidential historian David McCullough will read excerpts from Kennedy's speeches. Since the president was a Navy veteran, the event will also include a performance by the U.S. Naval Academy's Glee Club and a ceremonial flyover.
Dallas has spent about $1 million on repairs to Dealey Plaza in preparation for the ceremony. About $500,000 more is expected to be spent on upgrades, including new signs, city officials said. The event will be paid for with private donations.
Editing by Karen Brooks and Matthew Lewis