Rotary International's annual convention will get under way Wednesday with meetings of sub-groups promoting world peace and youth leadership.
The trickle of people coming in for those sessions will expand into a flood by next weekend. By the time the convention gets into full swing a week from now, as many as 21,000 Rotarians from all of the world's inhabited continents are expected to be walking Salt Lake City's streets, filling hotels throughout the Wasatch Front and Park City, packing downtown restaurants and buying souvenirs wherever they go.
And they do get around. Because Rotarians tend to bring family and friends with them, state tourism companies have set up an array of short and long tours that they can take before, during and after the convention.
"We're excited for Rotary. It's a big one," said Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) spokesman Shawn Stinson. "It's a prestigious group, well-respected and the Rotary convention is truly an international gathering."
Salt Lake City was scheduled to play host to this meeting in 2011, marking the 100th anniversary of Rotary's establishment in Utah. But after New Orleans, the designated host city for 2007, was ravaged two years ago by Hurricane Katrina, the Salt Lake CVB rallied local resources and persuaded Rotary International leaders that Utah's capital city could accelerate its preparations.
"Swapping places with New Orleans was the right thing to do, giving New Orleans a chance to regroup before they hold it in 2011," said Stinson.
To accommodate the crowds, the Salt Lake CVB lined up 51 hotels in the county to block out varying numbers of rooms for visiting Rotarians.
"It's nice to have the reservations early, but we probably would be sold out either way. This time of the travel season is busy," said Jason Dewaide, general manager of the Sleep Inn in South Jordan, noting that other Sleep Inns in Provo and Ogden also will be housing Rotarians. "Still, it will help the whole state of Utah because it will book up all the hotels."
A similar situation exists at the Shilo Inn in downtown Salt Lake City, official hotel of the Youth Exchange leaders whose meeting starts Thursday.
"June, July and August are our busiest months so we would be busy, but we wouldn't be so consistently packed," said Shilo sales director Rachel Bremer, noting that hotel employees were preparing to post a "Welcome" sign on the exterior marque and to hang banners on the inside.
The Rotarians will bring in a number of august speakers to address the conventioneers. William H. Gates, Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and a philanthropist in his own right, will be the keynote speaker at next Tuesday's plenary session.
One day later, Franklin Covey executive Hyrum W. Smith will talk to delegates about "values-based time and life management." Other speakers include Gillian Sorensen, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, who will address the Rotary World Peace Symposium.
The Rotary International Web site contains one page devoted to Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, a second generation Rotarian, and another to a list of "Great Things to Do" in and around Salt Lake City.
For entertainment, Donny Osmond will perform in a welcoming program Sunday that showcases Utah talent. Western Leisure tour company also has assembled a variety of day trips - one to Park City and Utah Olympic Park, another to Sundance, a third to Antelope Island and the Hill Air Force Base Museum - as well as three-, four- and five-day trips to national parks in Utah and surrounding states. One even stops in Las Vegas.
"We've heard quite a few stories about people wanting to head to Zions, Bryce or Yellowstone," said Stinson.
What to do in Salt Lake
* 1. Ride mountain bikes at Deer Valley Resort
* 2. Do genealogical research at the Family History Library
* 3. Check out Salt Lake City's library
* 4. Ride a bobsled at Utah Olympic Park
* 5. Check out Utah locations where movies were shot
* 6. Find out for yourself that alcohol is available in Utah by visiting private clubs such as Green Street, Port O'Call or the Tavernacle Social Club
* 7. Go to a Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsal
* 8. Stick around after the convention to attend the Utah Arts Festival
* 9. Gaze into the Bingham Canyon Mine
* 10. Try floating in the Great Salt Lake
Source: The Rotarian