There's a lot at stake as the convention comes to town.
We can do a lot to quiet the "flyover'' critics this week. The Republican National Convention provides the Twin Cities area with an unprecedented opportunity to sell itself to the rest of the country.
As Lori Sturdevant describes elsewhere in this section, we blew a similar national image test in 1892. Things went a lot more smoothly in 1992, when we hosted Super Bowl XXVI, and in 1992 and 2001, when the NCAA Final Four came to town. We're an educable people, and we learn from our mistakes even if it takes 100 years.
The RNC offers another civic challenge. An estimated 15,000 members of the news media from the United States and abroad will arrive this weekend. Even if that number is overstated, the media crush will be far greater than for a Super Bowl or Final Four, and probably more typical of the Olympics.
The scripted political conventions the major parties orchestrate these days -- Monday is "service'' day at the RNC, for example -- means there will be thousands of reporters and columnists looking for stories outside Xcel Energy Center. That's where our best-kept-secret image comes into play.
What will it take to pull off a successful convention -- one that will help the area draw other major events and even bolster efforts to put the Twin Cities on the radar of more relocating businesses and talented young professionals?
Here are five key measures:
Taking care of business. The Xcel Energy Center is one of the best venues of its kind in the country -- just ask Springsteen -- and there's every reason to expect the facility will get rave reviews this week. A seamless convention operation is essential.
Relative calm on the streets. Protests have been quieter than anticipated in Denver, and we hope for the same here. Law enforcement must maintain order but allow peaceful protests. A Seattle-like World Trade Organization fiasco would be devastating.
Transportation. Because we lack a critical mass of hotel rooms in any one city, media and other visitors will be staying in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Bloomington and beyond. How efficiently they can move around by car, light rail, bus, limo and cab will be extremely important.
The party scene. RNC attendees will be looking for a good time. Some will opt for music and bar-hopping until 4 a.m.; others will want to visit museums, shop the Mall of America and be tucked in shortly after the nightly news. If vistors return home with a better understanding of the diversity of arts and entertainment and restaurant options here, we gain bonus points.
Cosmetics. How do we look on camera? The network coverage of the RNC will be limited, of course, but lots of other video reports will be produced for TV and the Web. Downtown St. Paul is scrubbed, and hanging flower baskets seem to be multiplying. West 7th Street has never looked more charming -- or more like Red Wing. That's a good thing. Work crews were still touching up downtown Minneapolis Friday morning, and Nicollet Mall looked especially inviting.
And so we welcome our out-of-town visitors and the worldwide attention with a combination of civic pride and a slight case of nerves.
We failed the Republicans in 1892. We don't plan to let it happen again.