A Mississippi River cruise, a reception in the posh home of a prominent attorney and ovations at the airport have all been part of the southern hospitality Utah delegates have found so far at the Republican National Convention.

And Utah delegates decided to return that hospitality by giving away Utah ski trips, posters and products - part of accepting a challenge from Utah Democrats to see which party can collect more requests for Utah tourist information. Democrats obtained about 650 at their convention in Atlanta.State Republican Chairman Craig Moody originally refused the Democrats' challenge, saying Republicans would be too busy working on a party platform for such frivolity.

He changed his mind Sunday, after pressure from Utah's 140-person entourage - including delegates, family and staff. He said they convinced him it would be fun and that Republicans should easily win the bet because they have more people at their convention than the Democrats did.

"We decided to accept this in the spirit of fun, but we have one condition," Moody said. "The losers not only have to buy the winners Mrs. Fields cookies (as Democrats proposed), they also have to buy Snelgrove's ice cream." Of course, Richard Snelgrove is the Republican congressional candidate in District 2 and is a national delegate.

Delegates also said that maybe the state's image needs a little help among other Republicans. For example, a party secretary, Holly Rowe, said that when she met out-of-state delegates at a dance, they asked how many husbands she brought. "So maybe we still have some work to do with our image," she said as she passed out gifts that Utah Republicans will give other delegations.

Others in the group said New Orleans residents do seem to know quite a bit about Utah _ and refer to it mainly as the state that took their Jazz basketball team.

New Orleans is a city known for partying, and delegates found the party began as soon as they walked off their planes. They were greeted by cheers from hundreds of red-white-and-blue-dressed volunteers and Dixieland jazz bands packing the airport.

The Utah delegation was also treated to drinks and hors d'oeuvres Sunday at the luxurious home of prominent Louisiana attorney Don Collins.

His home was one of 25 of the city's finest chosen for state delegation receptions. "I chose Utah because we have passed through the state and like it. We are skiers."

The delegation then enjoyed an evening cruise and dinner on the Mississippi River _ taking in night views of the New Orleans skyline. Many delegates then sought out late-night jazz clubs in the city's famed French Quarter.

In a Monday morning caucus of the Utah delegation, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, urged all the delegates to attend a Wednesday evening reception he is holding in honor of former heavyweight boxing champion Mohammed Ali.

"You will love him. He and I have become very friendly. He even sent me a framed buckle of one of his world championships. I said I would only hold such a treasure for his children. He joked that if he dies before me, I have to preach a eulogy at his funeral and I said if I die before him, he has to be a pallbearer at mine."

Several of the delegates also talked of political plans for the week. For example, Gov. Norm Bangerter will be honored at a reception sponsored by Delta Air Lines late Monday morning.

Former U.S. Education Secretary T.H. Bell said Vice President George Bush has invited him to spend time in his private box in New Orleans, and said he plans to participate in a caucus on education on Wednesday.

And Snelgrove said he is busy visiting political groups seeking funds for his congressional campaign, and is busy showing copies of a "Campaigns and Elections" magazine saying his opponent, Rep. Wayne Owens, is one of six incumbents most vulnerable this election.

One of the main worries many delegates face in New Orleans _ a city famous for its thousands of fine restaurants _ is how many pounds they may gain.

But delegate Alex Hurtado of Ogden gave his cohorts this advice in a caucus. "Think of this as a Scarlet O'Hara convention. Don't give a damn about your diet, and think about how much you'll gain tomorrow. This will be a 20-pound convention."