- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

PHILADELPHIA The City of Brotherly Love is now "the city that loves you back," according to signs and assorted paraphernalia featuring the new warm and fuzzy slogan.
But don't expect the good folks that make their lives here to be hugging and kissing visitors just yet.
While the mood is decidedly patriotic yards upon yards of red, white and blue bunting adorn buildings all over town scores of brick masons, painters, public works crews and others are picking up serious overtime, driven by a deadline as they gussy up a city that will soon capture the national political spotlight.
"Company's coming," said a gushing Tony Sorrentino, overworked but eager as he led a media tour of the downtown convention center yesterday where thousands are expected to visit an ambitious interactive memorabilia show called Politicalfest, set up by the city's Philadelphia 2000 host committee.
Like many of his fellow residents, Mr. Sorrentino, the exhibit's co-chairman, is eager for the world to embrace his hometown, which hasn't hosted a political convention since 1948. About 12,000 locals have volunteered to help with the event, which has been 2 and 1/2 years in the planning, said Mr. Sorrentino, who hopes both politicos and pundits will like what they see.
"This area, especially downtown, is experiencing a renaissance," he offers. "This is a city with tremendous pride. When you are the birthplace of America, you pull out all of the stops."
Everyone, it seems, is in on the action.
At the chichi Joan Shepp boutique on Walnut Street, a stars-and-stripes scarf adorns a sharply dressed mannequin and a flier in the window advertises a convention party.
Across the street, Bacharach Photographers touts an "RNC special." "Be photographed in Abraham Lincoln's chair," reads their sign.
The Waldorf Cafe, at 20th and Lombard streets, has tailored its elephant-adorned ad in the City Paper to entice hungry Republican conventioneers.
"Dinner for the Fiscal Conservative," the copy reads, touting a $20 fixed-price meal that includes red, white and blueberry pie.
At the Dock Street Brew Pub, presumed Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush will be welcomed warmly with a large sign, even though he'll likely be too busy to toss back a few cold ones.
"You can't get a Busch here, but Bush can get a beer here," is the catchy phrase the brewery and restaurant is using to lure in customers.
"Nice ad," said custodian Steven Brown, a Philly native, who was busy cleaning the nearby Gallery Market East Mall. Mr. Brown, a Democrat, seemed eager for the festivities to get under way, but declined comment on the Republican invasion that was to arrive in a few days.
"There's a lot of hoopla, a lot of traffic," he said of the preconvention preparations. "But there's still a lot of work to be done."
Mr. Brown was not alone in his labor. Joe Narducci spent yesterday perched atop a cherry picker, where he continued one of several 16-hour days hanging 900 colorful convention banners all over town.
"They're waterproof, I'm not," said Mr. Narducci, looking skyward across the street from the historic Town Hall, which was decked out in bunting, banners and scores of American flags.
Gray clouds announced a rainy spell that is expected to last for most of the week, but around the corner a crew of bricklayers was undeterred by drops of precipitation as they filled in some broken pavement, working quickly as buses whizzed by.
"They want it done by the convention, I know that," said Rollin Fleming, as he carefully smoothed the gray mortar on the red bricks.
Crews of window washers also were out in full force, clinging high from several office buildings as they polished large panes of glass. "Everywhere you look, something's going on," said window washer Chris Coffman of Charleston, S.C., who was sprucing up the new Loews Philadelphia Hotel at the corner of Market and 12th streets.
Around town, red and black paint was still tacky to the touch on fire hydrants, and several mailboxes were shining brightly with a new coat of blue lacquer. Red, white and blue windsocks blew spiritedly in the breeze on the front of the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Building, and planters in front of several office buildings boasted a colorful array of newly planted red, white and bluish flowers.
In the midst of all of the last-minute spit-polishing, convention memorabilia sales were already picking up.
The hottest item so far? A T-shirt festooned with repeated pictures of former President Ronald Reagan. Its catchy slogan: "Legalize Cloning."
"It's hard to keep enough in here," said Cara Thomas, manager of the GOP Warehouse shop inside the convention center, who has already sold out of the first shipment of the shirt. "Everyone really loves anything with Reagan on it."

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