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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Tina Mascarenas catalogs and stores flowers sent from the University of Utah for LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley's funeral at the Conference Center.

After steady crowds and an evening rush Thursday to President Gordon B. Hinckley's viewing, Friday's crush of mourners began before noon.

By 4 p.m., thousands of people lined the length of the Conference Center on all sides. The line snaked through the plaza toward the entrances.

At the same time, thousands of others waited inside the massive auditorium and in its cavernous reception areas. By midday most waited three hours or more to say goodbye. Church officials said an official count of those who passed the church leader's casket won't be tallied until today, but by 6 p.m., they estimated 35,000 to 40,000 would have passed through.

Despite subfreezing temperatures, the love of Latter-day Saints for their prophet didn't dissuade the determined, and the cold wasn't expected to keep crowds from gathering this morning at the north gate of Temple Square for tickets to the 11 a.m. funeral.

Sprinkled among mourners during the scheduled 20-hour viewing were sprays of colorful blooms tucked sporadically among the overcoats — a floral tribute many couldn't resist bringing along.

But instead of wilting in the February chill, the blooms were gathered, sniffed by a security dog, catalogued and photographed by church officials. Then they were wheeled into a refrigerated semitrailer inside the bowels of the huge building, awaiting their worldwide television appearance during his funeral at 11 a.m. today, part of the visual tribute to a leader beloved by small and great alike.

The flowers ranged in size from single, grocery store begonias and pansies in small plastic pots to hand-held fluorescent-colored daisies wrapped in cellophane to massive, 8-foot sprays of floral grandeur that required two people to transport.

Diane Lavin and Tina Mascarenas spent Friday "backstage" at the Conference Center, watching as security personnel and their Labrador poked and nosed through the blooms before giving them the "all clear."

At that point, the two catalogued the flowers, taking the sympathy cards to record the name of the donor and filing them away to be given to family members. Each arrangement was then assigned a number on a written card, which was placed on the arrangement before it was photographed.

"All the photos will be printed out and put in a book, along with the log and the cards for the family," Lavin said. "We hydrate the flowers and put them in the cooler," a 48-foot semitrailer filled with flowers of every color, size and shape. They lined the walls and the multitiered shelves on both sides, leaving a scented path for workers to move in and out with additions to the makeshift garden.

Utah's four largest universities all were represented by 11 a.m., including a red carnation U courtesy of President Michael Young at the University of Utah, lauding President Hinckley as a "distinguished alumnus, religious leader and friend." Westminster College, LDS Business College and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were also among the array.

One wreath sported large rosebuds, grouped in six different colors with wooden "bees" buzzing above the blooms, with ribbons that repeated the admonitions President Hinckley gave LDS youths to "be grateful, be smart, be clean, be true, be humble, be prayerful."

Roses were favorites, along with sprays of carnations, gerber daisies, gladiolas, tulips and what looked to be some tropical flowers and plants.

Bunches of uniform flowers wrapped in cellophane awaited arrangement with others for the ceremony. Some were used to replace wilted or damaged blooms in prearranged sprays. Workers retrieved them every couple of hours from the baggage check area near the front of the Conference Center, wheeling them back to the staging area.

"Everything will get used eventually," Mascarenas said.

The blooms sat in company with boxes and huge vases of floral greenery used to decorate the dais. Workers were busy loading and unloading supplies used in staging today's funeral.

In a separate area, children's hand-drawn artwork and cards were catalogued, along with a wide variety of gift items, including framed poetry, books, large feathers and a set of three large, hand-tooled, wooden plaques, reading: "How Great Thou Art," "President Gordon B. Hinckley," "1910-2008."

Among the most poignant: a brown wooden cane, adorned with a red ribbon and a sealed, handmade card, for the man who waved one as he walked.

Broadcast coverage

President Gordon B. Hinckley's funeral will be carried live today on five local broadcast stations and one local cable channel. Ch. 2, Ch. 5, Ch. 11, Ch. 13 and BYUTV will begin their coverage at 10:30 a.m.; Ch. 4 will join at 11 a.m., when the funeral is to begin.

On radio, it will be broadcast on KSL (1160 AM, 102.7 FM), KNRS (570 AM), KBYU (89.1 FM) and BYU Radio.

The services also will be available on Comcast On Demand within 30 minutes of the conclusion of the funeral. It and additional programs about President Hinckley will be available to Comcast subscribers for several weeks.

The 1996 "60 Minutes" segment in which Mike Wallace interviewed President Hinckley will be repeated at 7 p.m. Sunday on KUTV, Ch. 2.

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com