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A grand time in store for the GOP

Local officials say fun, food, festivities will delight delegates

Local Republican Party leaders believe that all work and no play would make a political convention a dull place – and reflect poorly on Fort Wayne.

So they will offer food, music, tourist attractions and big-name speakers to the 1,775 delegates expected to attend the GOP state convention at Grand Wayne Center in June.

“This just isn’t about the delegates showing up, doing their vote and leaving. We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to really showcase the community,” Bill Bean, a convention organizer, said Monday during a news conference at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters.

“We need to show people that Republicans know how to have fun,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd.

GOP officials said the June 6-7 convention will feature:

•Speeches on June 6 by Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and Fox News talk-show host, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. The Journal Gazette reported online last week and in Sunday’s Political Notebook that the two had been lined up as speakers.

State GOP Chairman Tim Berry said Huckabee and Priebus “know how important it is to bring the party together to gain the enthusiasm that is going to be necessary for us to gain victory in the fall.”

•Fort Fun Night at Parkview Field on June 6. Chop’s Steak and Seafood, Club Soda, Eddie Merlot’s, J.K. O’Donnell’s Irish Ale House, Main Street Bistro and Martini Lounge, and Oyster Bar will provide the food, and Last Call, Sierra Shame, Sugar Shot and Urban Legend will perform music. Fireworks are planned, too.

•On June 7 will be a celebration of Gov. Mike Pence’s 55th birthday and tourist shuttles to Science Central, Allen County Courthouse, the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Fort Wayne Museum of Art and Jefferson Pointe Shopping Center. A concert by what Berry said would be a well-known entertainer will be that night at Embassy Theatre.

Convention delegates will nominate Republican candidates for state auditor, treasurer and secretary of state. Three people seek the treasurer’s nod, and the contest should boost interest in the convention from delegates and news media.

This will be the first GOP state convention conducted outside Indianapolis. Indiana Democrats moved their state convention away from the capital city for the first time in 2012 when they came to Fort Wayne.

Dan O’Connell, president and chief executive officer of Visit Fort Wayne, said the Democrats’ gathering produced “a lot of oohs and ahhs” from people who had not been to the city in recent years.

“So what we learned from that is to copy that,” O’Connell said.

He said Visit Fort Wayne will promote city assets to Republican delegates “to let people know there are a lot of things to do here than just go to the state convention.”

Convention organizers will provide transportation or perhaps cover fuel costs for delegates reluctant to make the long drive to Fort Wayne from southwest Indiana, Bean said.

“What we have promised those people is that we will work with them in overcoming any obstacles that the delegates had as far as attending,” he said.

Bean said the organizers will spend at least $200,000 on the convention, with all of the money donated by private sources.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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