BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The protests and national attention have not kept tourists away from the Capital City. A regional convention of Jehovah's Witnesses is in Baton Rouge for the first time since the early 80s.
"Everybody's very hospitable. We've been enjoying the nice restaurants and the nice people here, so it's been real nice," pastor Timothy Bealer said.
Bealer is in town from Mississippi to help preach the convention's theme of loyalty. He said organizers never considered moving the gathering because of recent events.
"We do have good Bible-based messages that come across our platform here as well as in our congregation meetings, so in situations like that, comfort is what's needed the majority of the time," Bealer explained.
Around 15,000 witnesses will be in Baton Rouge over three weekends, and with them comes revenue. Organizers say around 7,000 hotel nights have been booked at 17 area hotels.
"We have been pursuing Jehovah's Witnesses for many years and finally brought them in about a year ago to finalize plans for this year," Visit Baton Rouge CEO Paul Arrigo said.
The summer months are traditionally slow for Baton Rouge tourism, plus corporate business is down this year thanks to the declining oil industry, but Arrigo said no one has pulled out over protests.
"We have had one or two calls of persons who had interest in knowing what was going on, and the determination was for the conference to continue to come to Baton Rouge, and they had a very good conference," he said.
It's the same feeling at the River Center. The Witnesses will not only take home lessons in faith, but also impressions of a host city working to heal.
The Jehovah's Witness convention is broken up over three weekends (July 8-10, July 15-17, and July 29-31). The entire program is free and open to the public. Doors open to the River Center at 8:00 a.m. for seniors/disabled and 8:15 for all others. The program starts at 9:20 each day and ends at 4:50 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 3:45 p.m. on Sunday.