As host city, Salt Lake City met and then surpassed the expectations of the 17,000 Rotarians attending the global gathering of the 98th Rotary International Convention.

"I haven't had much time to see the city," said Rotarian Faye Cran from Tanzania. "The convention has been very good, the best I've ever been to."

Rotarians gave many reasons for ranking the convention in first place.

"It was very relaxed with enough room for everyone," said Chris Mutalya, a Rotarian from Kampala, Uganda. "There was no stress, no crowds pushing, and the people were very friendly."

Many Rotarians found the time to enjoy the local sights and sounds.

On Tuesday, every tour offered to visit local sights was sold out. Six tours offered daily trips to explore places like Antelope Island, the Great Salt Lake, Park City, Kennecott Copper Mine, Snowbird and a Crossroads of the West tour of local Salt Lake sites.

"We've had so many people come up to Park City and do the walking tour of Main Street," said Cherry Hutley from the Park City Chamber of Commerce. "Park City had 10,000 miners living there at one time. People have enjoyed seeing the Historic Museum on Main Street and old buildings that have a colorful past."

Curiosity about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was high among visitors. Temple Square, the Conference Center and the well-known Tabernacle Choir were high on the must-see list for many. Several hundred visitors also sat down in front of a computer to trace their roots at the LDS Family History Center set up in the House of Friendship at the Salt Palace.

"We've been swamped," said a Family Search volunteer. "Many who sat down here decided to go over and visit the Genealogy Library so they could spend more time tracing their roots."

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed a special concert for the Rotarians on Sunday. In the days following the concert, the Deseret Book booth vendor at the convention had a hard time keeping up with demand for the choir's music CDs.

"The very first thing we did when we got here was to sign up for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert Sunday morning," said Wendy Johnston from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Some Rotarians are taking the long way home.

"We're driving through Cedar City and to Zion National Park to see some of those sights down in that area," said Joe, a Rotarian from Southern California who did not provide his last name. "It's nice to get out of the city and see some of this area."

In closing remarks, a convention spokesman invited Rotarians to come to Los Angeles and experience the best convention ever, but then stopped and corrected himself, "or at least the second-best convention."

Dennis Coad of Port Pirie, Australia, summed it up when he said, "We came to get ideas and information to take back to our clubs, and each day has been full of surprises."


E-mail: dramsay@desnews.com