The final day at the Republican National Convention was full of memories for Utah delegates - ranging from seats at the center of the world's largest balloon drop to breakfast with George and Barbara Bush and a demonstration against CBS anchor Dan Rather.
The Utah delegation, with its front-row seats, was at ground zero, directly beneath most of the 100,000 or so balloons dropped from the rafters of the Superdome after Bush finished his speech. That is five times as many balloons as the Democrats dropped in Atlanta. The drop cost $77,000.Delegate T.H. Bell, the former U.S. secretary of education, said even though everyone was popping balloons as fast as possible, "They almost buried me. They had me up to my head. So I had to stand on a chair."
Delegate Alex Hurtado said the balloons were 4 to 5 feet deep, so everyone took off their campaign buttons and started using the pins to pop balloons. "It's quite a sight seeing U.S. senators and congressmen mowing through balloons. I looked at Bell and told him, `This is why we need more education in America.' "
Delegate Delores Bennett said a young girl in the aisle in front of the delegation was completely buried in balloons. "We started throwing balloons off her - she was scared to death. It was so packed down there with all the people in the aisles, that we could hardly move."
The alternate delegates from Utah had seats at the back of the floor and were more out of harm's way. "It was more fun back there because we could move around. We even tried to start a wave. I was in the delegate section during the (smaller) balloon drop after Reagan's speech Monday, and it was terrible," said alternate Georgia Hare.
After the balloon drop and the convention were over, several Utah delegates joined in an impromptu protest in front of the CBS News box against anchor Rather for implying that pro-Bush demonstrators on the floor had been paid and were not real Bush supporters.
"We were chanting, `We want Walter (Cronkite) back,' `Rather's a wimp,' `We're switching channels,' `I'd rather be with George' and several others. There were about 2,000 people there," said alternate delegate Mark Vincent.
Earlier in the day, a few Utah delegates were invited - along with several hundred others - to have breakfast with Barbara Bush.
Bennett was one of them. "It was informal, and the vice president showed up and joked with her. It was like we were just invited to meet the family."
One last memory Thursday for delegates was putting on a big push to ensure they collected more requests for Utah tourist information from fellow Republicans than Utah Democrats gathered in Atlanta.
State Republican Chairman Craig Moody said he hasn't counted the cards yet but thinks they collected about 1,000. The Democrats collected about 700.
The delegation had only collected about 300 as of Thursday morning. So Moody pleaded for delegates to do more work, and offered special commemorative key chains for delegates who collected at least 15 cards. The bribery worked.
Also, when word spread at the convention that Utah was raffling off free ski trips for people who filled out the cards, Moody said requests for information flowed in.
Delegates' reaction to the convention overall were favorable.
Moody said, "I think this has been the springboard we need to go on to victory. I think it will definitely help us in Utah.
"I think Gov. Norm Bangerter gave a good performance" when he told of Utah's virtues when he cast the delegates' votes for Bush. "That's compared to Scott Matheson who didn't say anything, but then that was the whole theme of the Democratic convention." Unfortunately, the national television networks had signed off the air by the time Utah's vote was announced.
Bell said, "It's been a good convention, and I think we've got our message out."
Bud Scruggs, campaign manager for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said, "The speech by Bush accomplished about 90 percent of what we needed to do. It showed what he is all about. But overall these conventions are silly things. They are like Disneyland for politicians."