Get ready to rip another page off the 2012 calendar - and move closer to the Democratic National Convention.
September will be here before you know it.
Exactly how much impact Charlotte's big event will have on Gaston and surrounding counties is still up in the air, but we're beginning to get some clues.
In early February, convention officials announced a dozen venues had been picked for delegate receptions, and the list includes a Gaston site - Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont.
The garden will host an outdoor party for up to 700 people on the evening of Sept. 2.
Meanwhile, Walt Israel, director of Gaston County Tourism, hopes even more convention participants will come this way.
It looks like state delegations will stay in hotels in Charlotte and Cabarrus County. Officials announced the assignments a few weeks ago.
Israel hopes Gaston hotels will attract the overflow from the service end of the convention - media people, Secret Service staff and the like. They're more likely to be around for weeks instead of shorter stays by the delegates.
Gaston has about 1,480 hotel rooms available, and there will be stiff competition for that space on Labor Day weekend and the week before. That's when the Shelby Hamfest folks flock to Biggerstaff Park in Dallas.
Four years ago, the event moved from the Cleveland County Fairground in Shelby to Gaston County. Last year, about 12,800 ham radio enthusiasts from 30 states showed up. Many camped in RVs, but lots more stayed in local hotels.
'More than our share'
Israel said representatives from the Democratic National Convention got a Gaston tour several months ago and met with the local travel and tourism's hotel partnership.
The agenda included a trek to the top of Crowders Mountain.
Since then, official announcements have been clear about future scenarios: most convention activities won't be headed west of Charlotte.
But one way or another, Israel feels that Gaston will benefit from the convention and "get more than our share."
Delegates who make the short ride to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden for the Sept. 2 event will find themselves in a different world. They'll feel slightly isolated, closer to nature and relaxed. That's how I feel on a visit to Stowe Botanical.
I recently stopped by for a talk with the garden's executive director, Kara Newport. We sat outside on a spring-like afternoon with marshmallowy clouds drifting overhead and bird calls ringing in the woods.
The garden will look a little different in the fall when the convention delegates arrive.
Newport said plants will have had all summer to develop, and butterflies will be at their peak. The garden tells the story of the butterfly life cycle through exhibits and a special area at the top of the Meadowood Walk.
The "Summer of Color" display of 250 plant varieties will be going on and give the delegates plenty to talk about when they get back to Charlotte. I'm betting they'll schedule a return visit.
Within 380 acres along the banks of Lake Wylie, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden already has a national reputation. Attendance is at about 110,000 people annually - from all 50 states and several foreign countries.
The garden hosts about 100 private events each year, including weddings, corporate events and private celebrations. It has been named one of the top 25 gardens in the country by HGTV and was named one of the top 10 gardens at which to enjoy fall by USA Today.
'Go green, go Gaston'
Newport has been at the helm of the garden since 2006. A native of Ohio, she grew up on a sheep farm near Dayton.
With a background in public gardens, she came to Asheville in 1997 as director of development for the N.C. Outward Bound School. From there, she went to Philadelphia to become director of development for The Franklin Institute, one of the world's leading science centers.
Then, in 2003, she returned to North Carolina as vice president of development at Discovery Place in Charlotte.
Newport told me she settled in Mount Holly when she got the Discovery Place job because "I wanted to live on the green side of Charlotte."
The Catawba and South Fork rivers, the creeks and streams, Crowders and Kings mountains: it all formed an appealing package for someone who loved the outdoors.
The pitch she makes these days: "Go green, go Gaston."
Newport tries to get out in the garden no less than once a week.
Usually, a surprise awaits her. It might be the sight of a great blue heron or an iris blooming in mid-winter. Unforgettable images from an extraordinary landscape. I hope convention-goers who experience Stowe Botanical Garden will be inspired to branch out and see more of Gaston's green landscape. And then go spread the word.
Joe DePriest: 704-868-7745; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less