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lunes, 13 de junio de 2011

Religious convention packs Fort Smith hotels, restaurants

http://www.thecitywire.com/?q=node/16282
Submitted by The City Wire staff on Sat, 06/11/2011 - 10:41am.

Thousands of people traveled to Fort Smith this weekend for the annual Jehovah’s Witnesses convention. The three day event kicked off Friday morning, according to this report from KFSM 5 News.
The religious convention has been held at the Fort Smith Convention Center since 2009, and may return in 2012.

“We’re one of the fastest growing religions in the world,” said Herbert Wight, a speaker at the convention.

By the thousands Jehovah’s Witnesses packed the Fort Smith Convention Center Friday. Organizers expect close to 4,000 people this weekend. Next weekend they will do it all over again, and then the following weekend the program is all in Spanish. The convention will continue through Sunday.

“We’ll have 11,000 different folks that will have come to Fort Smith for these conventions,” said Wight.
Participants pack parking lots, restaurants, and local hotels.“Really good business for us,” said Scott Meyer, general manager at the Holiday Inn in downtown Fort Smith, “Definitely good business for the hotel and for the city.
”Meyer says all 255 of their rooms are booked. He brought on extra staff to handle the crowd.

“We have everybody on standby ready to go,” said Meyer.Workers at the La Huerta restaurant on Garrison Avenue say business picked up Friday night an hour earlier than normal.

“We notice more people, more families, a bunch of kids,” said Hector Torres, manager at La Huerta.Jehovah’s Witnesses from Oklahoma, Missouri, and other parts of Arkansas attend the event.

“Personally I hope that we’ll continue to be able to bring conventions here,” said Wight, “We have found Fort Smith to be a warm welcoming place.”

If the convention center is open, summer 2012 may be even busier.

Officials with the Southern Bowling Congress have said they will bring their March/April 2012 national tournament and more than 5,200 participants to Fort Smith. The tournament will result in an estimated economic impact of more than $4.25 million, according to the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau.

If the Jehovah’s Witness convention returns in 2012, the city’s hotels and Fort Smith Convention Center would be busy, and possibly booked for 10 consecutive weekends.The Southern Bowling Congress is a member of the United States Bowling Congress, and is comprised of a confederation of nine southern states that manage and host an annual tournament. The group, which works to fund youth scholarships, has been active since 1920 with a short break during World War II.

2010 for a five-week period in March and April. With an average per day expense of a tourism calculated at $271 (figure from the Arkansas Parks & Tourism Department), the direct economic impact is estimated to be $1.419 million.

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