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Minneapolis, St Paul Hotels Scramble as Republican National
Convention Guests Alter their Schedule
By Bill Ward, Star Tribune, MinneapolisMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 2, 2008 - The Alabama delegation had a blast at the State Fair and came back "stuffed with cheese curds," said Anderson Spensley, front office manager at the Marquette Hotel. But another Minnesota tradition drew an even stronger reaction.

"They love that there's no sales taxes on clothes here," Spensley said. "Well, half of them do. The men go, 'Don't tell my wife,' and the women say, 'Quick, where's Macy's?'"

That's not the only time Macy's came up in interviews with hotel employees striving this week to make Republicans' visits as memorable as possible.

"One lady knew she was gonna be walking the floor a lot and wanted to go to Macy's for two pairs of shoes," said Darrell Montgomery, veteran Hyatt Regency doorman. "She was not happy with what she had to spend. But you know, she could have gone to Target."

The Hyatt -- which is booked entirely with Republican National Convention officials and four states' delegations -- and 34 other delegation-hosting hotels have spent months smoothing out the logistics for the convention. But their best-laid plans hit a bump when Monday night's session was canceled because of Hurricane Gustav.

"It was not a nightmare but a scramble, a lot of shifting on the fly" helping guests make last-minute dinner and nightlife plans, said Michael Kofsky, Hyatt director of sales and marketing.

With more free time on their hands, many Hyatt guests approached Montgomery early Monday seeking directions to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden or Guthrie Theater. "I pointed 'em in the right direction," Montgomery said, "but told 'em there's nobody over there but the squirrels."

In general, hotel officials were tight-lipped about most of the goings-on, including the identities of their guests. Jim Saccoman, general manager at the Ramada Mall of America, allowed that his guests from Alaska no longer included Gov. Sarah Palin. But her surprise vice-presidential nomination also meant that his guests "really have that juice that Minnesotans thought they would be having," had Gov. Tim Pawlenty gotten the VP nod.

Down at the Hyatt, when asked if there had been a Sen. Larry Craig sighting during the Idaho delegation's stay, Kofsky quickly responded, "We have a lot of important guests here for this event and are not releasing any names."

Added Montgomery: "I don't even know who that is."

Bill Ward --612-673-7643


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