Beginning Friday morning, Jehovah’s Witnesses will influx Winston-Salem for a convention that will highlight a connection between family values and the teachings of Jesus Christ, said its organizers. The convention is part of four venues held in the region during the summer that expects 44,000 participants.
The convention will be held at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“We typically have four conventions here in Winston-Salem every summer. However, the attendance is normally around 8,000 per English session and 5,000 to 6,000 for the Spanish conventions and usually draw primarily just from North Carolina and part of Virginia. And the conventions are stand alone events with mostly local speakers,” said spokesperson Adam Linnet.
“This year is different because we are having international conventions where missionaries are brought back to the United States and international delegates are coming from different countries to the larger convention cities. That is one of the reasons we are video streaming from Detroit, Michigan (Ford Stadium) where we are expecting 45,000 there (the Detroit Lyons stadium),” continued Linett.
“Winston-Salem was selected because of being centrally located in the southeastern United States and because we have a longstanding good relationship with the coliseum (previously with the city of Winston-Salem and now with Wake Forest). They basically give us the keys and let us run the place for the weekend because we have departments ranging from cleaning to attendance, to parking, to care for all the practical needs of the attendees. Of course, since the coliseum will be near maximum capacity, this will be more challenging this year, but we have been planning on this for quite some time,” said Linett.
The church is using 1,500 rooms for the two English conventions, about 40 percent more than last year. The Spanish delegates will travel more and so there is only about a 10 percent increase in rooms.
“We negotiate long-term contracts with hotels to keep prices low for attendees,” said Jair Guinart, rooming coordinator for the convention. “However, not everybody has to stay in a room. Many times, local families open up their homes.”
Dominga Santiago arrived in Surry County from Maryland on Wednesday. “I came here because my son (Javier) lives here. I brought two of my church friends with me,” said Santiago. “I drove down in a van with 10 others, too. Those families have family here. This is about family.”
“They’re spending money, too,” said Guinart, who indicated that convention members will spend millions of dollars over the four dates. “It’s hard to put an exact figure, but when you add up all the rooms, food, gas, shopping, this is in the millions.”
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.