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Thousands come to Roanoke for Jehovah's Witnesses convention

What attendees say about the Star City, and the economic impact the event has

ROANOKE, Va. – One of the biggest conventions of the year is underway at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, bringing thousands of people -- and dollars -- into town.

More than 4,000 people are attending the three-day Jehovah’s Witnesses convention. The event is a part of a larger educational series that’s one of the biggest conventions in the world.

Singing songs and listening to speakers in what’s designed to be an educational and uplifting experience, well-dressed attendees filled the arena’s seats Friday afternoon.

It’s one of the biggest convention-style events of the year at the Berglund Center and those attending are spending money, including leaving hotels like the Holiday Inn on Gainsboro Road completely booked.

People who have been attending for the 30 years it’s been held in Roanoke said the Star City is hospitable and has a loving environment.

“We feel that from the citizens of Roanoke. We enjoy eating at the restaurants. The hotels are very accommodating. It's a comfortable venue. It’s a really nice city and we enjoy having what Roanoke has to offer,” attendee Leo Cormier said.

The theme of the convention is about love, particularly in the face of hate in the world. 

“The world around us is not always a loving place to be in, so how we can be better at showing love as Christians, in a family, but just dealing with people in general,” attendee Matt Einstein said.

Einstein and his family have been coming to this convention every year for more than two decades.

“It’s always an enjoyable, uplifting experience,” he said.

It’s bringing more attention to a religion that’s been around for nearly 150 years.

“Since our message is about love we just try to keep it positive and be open to what other people believe as long as they’re open to us,” Kristen Hughes said.

Organizers said the attendees represent the diversity of the region and that most of them are a two-hour drive away or closer.

The convention wraps up Sunday at 3:30 p.m.