Thousands of high school business and marketing students from all 50 states, as well as Canada, Guam and Puerto Rico, wrapped up four days of learning and competition Saturday in the Salt Palace.

For the first time, the Utah chapter of the Distributive Education Clubs of America played host in Salt Lake City to the annual national competition, said Randy Buhler, chairman of the Utah DECA board and a marketing and business teacher at Layton High School.DECA students from around the country met in the Salt Palace beginning Wednesday and competed by taking a series of written tests, playing roles and solving problems for judges and preparing manuals for judging in their specialties. Awards were presented to the best of the best Saturday night. Scholarships will be available to many of the top students, Buhler said.

DECA members study and concentrate on a variety of marketing and business management categories, including advertising and display services, general marketing, general merchandising, finance and credit, petroleum and vehicle marketing and apparel and accessories.

Some of the judges for the Salt Lake competition came from other states, but most were business professionals and industry representatives from Utah, recruited by the Utah clubs, Buhler said. The Utah effort in organizing the convention was headed by Carl Grunander, head of DECA in the state, he said, with many teachers, students and business people helping in the preparations since last summer.

Because of its size, Buhler said, Utah's participation in the national competition wasn't that significant only three students per event "but we've got a lot of really good kids here, and they're just working their hearts out. We're not one of the larger groups, but we have a lot of pride," he said.

And Utah's role as host isn't over yet.

Beginning May 4, the national junior collegiate DECA meet will begin in Salt Lake City, continuing through May 7, Buhler said.