Mayor Dale Doig of Fresno, Calif., loves fishing.

While he's in Salt Lake City this weekend for the 56th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors, city employees will take Doig to Flaming Gorge Reservoir on Saturday, Utah's free fishing day.The fishing excursion is indicative of behind-the-scenes efforts city staffers have put into planning the conference for 170 of Mayor Palmer DePaulis' colleagues.

"It's our image," said Jill Remington, city economic development director, one of the local organizers. "These are the nation's leaders - the mayor's peers - and they are going to be in Salt Lake City for a few days. Palmer is going to be showing off his home."

Big conventions come to Salt Lake City all the time. But when nationally known city bosses come to town, like Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and New York Mayor Ed Koch, well, they receive a little more VIP treatment than, say, the National Association of Hardware Dealers. "They (he mayors) don't pay for one thing while they are here," Remington said.

In addition, national press attention will focus on Salt Lake City when Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis addresses the mayors Sunday.

So, Salt Lake City is rolling out the red carpet, with a cleaned-up, freshly painted downtown, 70 helpful volunteers and a whole slate of parties to show off Utah's capital city. The mayors' conference began Friday and will continue through Wednesday.

Government types are known for revenue enhancement efforts. Consider this image enhancement.

"I think that a bunch of bureaucrats who would really prefer not to get involved in things like this have done a wonderful job in seeing that every need of the mayors is met," Remington said.

Organizers have raised $125,000 in private donations and additional in-kind contributions to put on the conference. That's compared with the $192,000 Nashville spent hosting last year's conference. Emilie Charles, DePaulis' administrative assistant, said $40,000 from the city budget is also earmarked for the conference, but she is hoping not to spend it. "There're a lot of things we could spend that $40,000 on in the city," she said.

Helping underwrite the conference are companies like Utah Power & Light Co., Pacific Power & Light Co., Mountain Bell, Chapman and Cutler, and Goldman, Sachs & Co., each contributing $10,000. Anonymous donors kicked in an additional $30,000. The Deseret News Publishing Co., Smith's Management Corp., Arthur Young, and KUTV Inc. each made $5,000 contributions.

Conference attenders will receive a Delta Airlines flight bag, stuffed with gifts from local businesses, such as a special issue of Wasatch Ale beer and Snowbird owner Dick Bass' book, "Seven Summits." Other freebies will include copies of Utah Holiday magazine, a T-shirt with the conference logo, "This is the place - again," salt water taffy, Utah Jazz pens and Mrs. Fields candy.

While national conference staff organize the program of speakers and resolution sessions, local organizers have been on the entertainment detail, planning everything from baby-sitting to arranging spouse teas, sightseeing trips and fashion shows.

But for the mayors, the real work, the networking and socializing, will take place in the evenings.

"They are here for the meetings, but when the meetings are over and it's time to party, we'll make sure there's a party," Remington said.

Local ethnic foods are on the menu for Saturday night's party on the plaza outside of Symphony Hall, complete with fireworks and featured entertainment by the Saliva Sisters, social satirists.

Adena Saliva, lead singer for the distinctly local group, says she and her sisters won't be intimidated by their impressive audience. "We do music burdened with comedy. We have a real unnatural act."

Second South outside the Capitol Theatre will become an outdoor cafe Sunday, with cultural performances by Ballet West, Utah Opera Company, Repertory Dance Theatre and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.

A barbecue at Snowbird with cowboy poetry and music, and an Oldies but Goodies '50s night at Deer Valley will complete the mayors' social calendar.