Convention Brings Millions to Fort Smith
Local businesses are gladly welcoming the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are back in Fort Smith for a fourth year to host their district convention.
“When you bring 12,000 people to any community, it has a good impact,” said News Service Director with the convention Ken Rader.
Over a three week period, those attending the convention bring in more than 10 million dollars of revenue to the city, according to Director of Advertising and Promotions Commission Claude Legris.
“Somewhere between 10 and 11 million dollars of activity happening in Fort Smith that would have happened in another city if the three conferences had not come to town,” said Legris.
Restaurants stay busy and hotels in Downtown Fort Smith say they’re completely booked.
“It’s nice to have the extra revenue in July from this group,” said Director of Sales at the Holiday Inn Brenda Payne.
“About 500 hotel rooms a night, and again you figure that’s about 1,500 hotel rooms per three day district conference and then three weeks in a row,” said Legris.
This is the second week for the theme “Safeguard your Heart.”
“In the Bible, it mentions the heart over 1,000 times and this focuses on our figurative heart or who we are on the inside,” said Rader.
The Jehovah’s Witness Convention brings guests from across Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Friday alone, more than 3,100 people piled into the Fort Smith Convention Center to open their Bibles, listen, and learn from guest speakers.
“The program is free,” said Rader. “There are no collections that are taken, and we encourage everyone to come.”
Throughout the next year, Jehovah’s Witnesses will also use the convention center for about a dozen smaller gatherings. They’ll bring about a thousand people with them each time.
The sessions will last throughout the weekend. The third and final week of the convention this summer will be on July 20. It will be a Spanish program.