Two presidential candidates will bring the battle for the Republican nomination to Harrisburg this weekend.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are featured speakers Saturday at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, an annual convention of conservative activists from across the state.

This will be the first time in the conference's 23-year history that a presidential candidate has made an appearance, said Lowman Henry, president of the Pennsylvania Leadership Council, which organizes the conference.

"Usually, Pennsylvania's primary doesn't matter," Henry said. "As a result of that, this is a very unique year."

Neither candidate is a stranger to the conference. Both have made appearances in past years, Henry said.

Then a congressman, Gingrich was actually the

featured speaker in 1989 -- the first year of the annual conference.

"It's almost a homecoming for him," Henry said.

Santorum confirmed his appearance last week, and Gingrich confirmed Monday, Henry said.

Henry said the council invited all four remaining Republican candidates. Mitt Romney's campaign is sending South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to speak on his behalf.

The Ron Paul campaign responded Wednesday, but their request to send a surrogate was denied. Henry said the conference will only accept surrogates at the level of a governor or senator.

Paul could decide at the last minute to show up, Henry said.

"If he does, we'll find a spot for him," he said.

Lancaster banquet: Two of the candidates are also expected to make appearances in the region April 17 at the Republican Committee of Lancaster County's spring banquet.

The Romney campaign has confirmed he will be there, and a Lancaster County commissioner has confirmed with the Santorum campaign that their candidate will be there, said Justin Quinn, the committee's executive director.

Details are still being worked out, but the event will be open to the public, Quinn said. Tickets are $30.

In Harrisburg on Saturday, Santorum is scheduled to speak at 9 a.m., and Gingrich is the final speaker at 1:30 p.m.

The conference is open to the public, but there is an $85 registration fee to attend. To register, go to www.paleadershipconference.com.

There are no plans for a question-and-answer session with the candidates, Henry said. Gingrich and Santorum may or may not decide to mingle with the crowd before and after their speeches.

"That's up to them," Henry said.

-- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or ejame s@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @ydcity.