Originally created 07/30/00

Activities abound for GOP delegates



ATLANTA - Even political junkies might need some respite from the endless networking and speeches of this week's Republican National Convention.

And Philadelphia is determined to give it to them.

Convention delegates and alternates arriving in town this weekend already have been bombarded through the mail with stacks of brochures and newsletters advertising things to do in and around the City of Brotherly Love.

Delegate Suzanne Hudgens of Hull, who's been to Republican conventions twice as an alternate and attended a third as a spectator, said she's never seen so much promotional material sent out in advance.

"The convention itself keeps you totally busy," she said. "There's no time to do the tourism thing."

But Philadelphia 2000, a nonprofit organization serving as the convention's host committee, is banking on delegates and their families with time on their hands to boost the local economy.

Organizers have planned special events for convention week, highlighted by tonight's lighted boat parade on the Delaware River - complete with fireworks - and PoliticalFest, a "world's fair" of politics at Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Museums and other attractions throughout the city are offering discount admissions to delegates.

Projections are that the convention will have a direct economic influence of $125 million on the city, making the event the most profitable in Philadelphia's history.

"That's because the convention is so long," said Susan Schwenderman, spokeswoman for Philadelphia 2000. "The majority of people coming are staying five days."

With that much time for side trips, delegates are planning a variety of activities, the more time-consuming either before the convention starts Monday morning or after it ends Thursday night.

David Barbee, Richmond County's Republican chairman, and his wife are taking a trip to New York City, just an hour away aboard an Amtrak passenger train.

Augusta Mayor Bob Young and his 15-year-old grandson plan to visit the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Valley Forge, where Continental troops suffered through a harsh winter during the Revolutionary War, before it became a comfortable suburb.

But others will stick to events related to the convention, of which there are more to choose from than hours in the day.

"I'll be able to go back and revisit the city," said Amy Vestal of Savannah. "I'll never go to another convention."

Reach Dave Williams at (404) 589-8424.