Darlin', get out your dancin' shoes. We're going to a party!

The invitation comes from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and others who are hosting the Saturday night, everyone-welcome street bash at the Triad Center.South Temple between the Delta Center and the Triad Center will be closed off to accommodate the thousands of partygoers expected for the live bands, fireworks, entertainment, food and Olympic hoopla.

"It's a time for celebration, an affirmation of community support for the 2002 Games," SLOC spokesman Frank Zang said. "It certainly marks a major milestone in the countdown to opening ceremonies. Just think, a thousand days from this point, the cauldron will be lit at Rice Eccles Stadium and the competition will begin."

Of course, the crowning event of the celebration, which runs from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., will be the unveiling of the 2002 Winter Games mascot -- or mascots.

Zang says the rampant public speculation about the mascots has fueled unbelievable interest. Radio stations have been having "name the mascot" contests, and school groups have even been designing their own.

It has been widely reported there will be three mascots, a coyote, bear and rabbit. One news organization even went to great lengths to describe the mascots within the context of Greek mythology, which is understandable given the Greek origins of the Games.

But what does Greece have to do with Utah? Look for the three mascots to reflect American Indian symbolism where the bear, coyote and rabbit are deeply ingrained in native ideology.

"Mascots are meant to be fun," Zang said. "The air of mystery and intrigue and speculation that goes along with the unveiling is truly part of the fun. There's no way it takes the air out of our sails."

There will be more than furry creatures at Satur- day's event. There will be photo opportunities with the mascots and Olympic athletes. There will be free pennants, drink bottles and stickers.

SLOC, the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce will also use the party to jointly unveil an official "legacy clock" that will count down the remaining thousands days until opening ceremonies on Feb. 8, 2002.

The clock, donated by Seiko, will remain in the light-rail median at 300 West and South Temple and "will be a constant reminder of the ultimate deadline, helping all segments of the community focus on the preparation needed to put on the Games," said Rick Davis, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Entertainment will include performances by Salsa Brava, Peter Breinholt and Big Parade, the Children's Dance Theater, the Salt Lake Children's Choir and the University of Utah Marching Band. Then throw in a trampoline show by world champion freestyle aerialists and snowboarders.

Children will be invited to participate in "interactive winter sport simulations." That means they can ski and ride a bobsled and luge -- sort of. It is, after all, simulated.

The street party is free, but you may want to bring some greenbacks. New Olympic pins based on the mascots and the time clock will go on sale after the unveiling of the mascots and clock, respectively. So will a whole new "exclusive" line of women's and children's apparel and accessories.

Party guests are also encouraged to bring nonperishable food items for donation to the Utah Food Bank. Some 200,000 Utahns live below the poverty level, and summer is typically a time of high demand but low contributions to the Utah Food Bank.

"We are thrilled to be joining SLOC to help raise awareness that hunger continues year-round," said Brenda Thompson, Utah Food Bank executive director.

The party will be hosted by Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and Utah native and football great Merlin Olsen.

"It is truly meant to be a community celebration," Zang said. "It is a chance to give something back to the community. It will have the look and feel of a real live street festival."