Minnesota's Twin Cities spruce themselves up for convention

Other News Materials 30 August 2008 07:13 (UTC +04:00)

St Paul, Minnesota, is the official site of the Republican Party's National Convention from Monday to Thursday, but the event is really a Twin Cities endeavour. ( dpa )

St Paul, the state capital, is separated by the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, the state's most populous city. But the Twin Cities form an inseparable urban region.

In the northern-central state of Minnesota, which borders Canada, the Twin Cities have mild summers and long winters.

Locals pride themselves on their pleasant lifestyles, with lots of outdoor recreation for any season on the Mississippi River, in spacious city parks or the surrounding countryside of lakes, forest and farms.

In a landscape forged by the long-retreated glaciers of North America's last ice age, Minnesota is especially famous for its countless and beautiful lakes.

Minnesota is a relatively liberal bastion in the traditional Midwest, yet the conservative Republican Party's quadrennial presidential nominating convention is a "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for the community, Minneapolis-St Paul host committee spokeswoman Teresa McFarland said.

Minneapolis, founded in 1867, is considered the typical US city which ties life in a modern metropolis with a historical past. Population 383,000, it lies on the western bank of the Mississippi.

Its smaller neighbour, St Paul, population 277,000, has been the state capital since 1854.

To this day, St Paul retains a degree of European charm, after being settled by entrepreneurs, explorers and French-Canadian missionaries from north of the border.

The Twin Cities expect to reap a windfall from the Republican Convention, whose visitors are projected to spend some 160 million dollars for the four-day nominating pageant, climaxing Thursday with Arizona Senator John McCain's presentation as the centre-right party's standardbearer in the November 4 general elections.

The Twin Cities beat Cleveland and New York with their bid to host the convention.

Since the cities were named in September 2006 as convention hosts, preparations have been moving at full speed across the region to make the best possible impression on the expected 45,000 visitors.

Visitors to the Twin Cities often remark on how unusually clean the cities are.

Yet, residents and store owners have been encouraged to spruce up their homes and shops - to plant flowers, paint walls, erase graffiti and fly red, white and blue US flags. A contest was underway to award the owner of the best housefront with VIP tickets to the best parties during the convention.

In a publicity stunt to promote their clean-up campaign, the mayors of both towns took up washcloths to scrub city taxis.

The gathering itself will take place in the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, where some 60,000 new phone lines and 32 kilometres of electrical and fibre-optic lines have been laid, according to media reports.

As was the case in Denver, Colorado, where the centre-left Democratic Party's convention ended on Thursday night, the Republicans are also thinking green: part of the power used in the gathering will be generated by wind.

The Twin Cities last hosted a major-party presidential convention in 1892, when the Republican Party nominated Benjamin Harrison, who went on to lose the general election to Democrat Grover Cleveland.