KENNEWICK -- Jehovah's Witnesses are coming to town this summer.
They'll be here, almost 21,000 strong, for four weekends beginning Friday as the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses holds its annual convention at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
"It's actually four, three-day conventions of nearly 5,000 people each weekend. Each weekend brings a new group of individuals drawn from throughout the Northwest. So when you add them together, it makes the Jehovah's Witnesses our largest event of the year," said Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau in Kennewick.
While here, they're expected to spend an estimated $9,450,000 in direct visitor spending with Tri-City hotels, restaurants and other merchants.
In comparison, the Triple Crown Sports' Father's Day Slugfest held June 15-17 in the Tri-Cities drew almost 4,000 players, coaches and spectators from across the Northwest and generated an estimated $1.2 million in revenue for Tri-City merchants.
"Although the primary purpose of each convention is for delegates to attend the Bible-based convention program, while they are here they also find time for shopping, dining and sightseeing. Many local business owners report that the weekends that the Jehovah's Witnesses are in town are some of the busiest days of the season for sales receipts," she said.
The theme of this year's convention series is "Safeguard Your Heart." The first, July 6-8, will be in Spanish. The next three, July 13-15, Aug. 3-5 and Aug. 10-12, will be in English. Each will be held at the Toyota Center, 7100 W. Quinault Ave., Kennewick.
All convention sessions are open to the public and free. No collections are taken.
For more information on the conference, call 509-460-0683.
Each day, the convention begins at 9:20 a.m. and wraps up about 4 p.m.
It's expected that the streets around the coliseum will be congested each day as people arrive and leave.
"Be patient with traffic," Watkins advised. "And not just in the area of the coliseum, but all over the Tri-Cities."
Between sports and other events, and just tourism, we actually have several thousand people visit the Tri-Cities nearly every weekend from spring through fall, Watkins said.
"It makes for busy streets, fewer empty tables in restaurants and just a busier time for everyone," she said.