Since 1998, the City of Cornwall has hosted the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watch Tower conventions. As with any religion, there will always be someone or a group of people who don’t see eye to eye with the Witnesses. However, there are countless reasons why the yearly conventions at the Civic Complex are good for the City. Our discussion is not about religion, it’s about the positive impact the Witnesses bring to Cornwall and SD&G.
What started out as a one weekend convention has blossomed into a month-long gathering in the Seaway Valley. In its inaugural year, 5,000 Jehovah’s visited Cornwall for the Watch Tower convention, giving an economic boost to our hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and facilities.
Over the past 13-14 years, the convention has blossomed dramatically. According to Cornwall and Seaway Valley tourism and City of Cornwall officials, about 16,000 delegates attended four separate Watch Tower conventions in the June of 2011. The first two conventions were for English Witnesses, which attracted nearly 8,000 delegates and the final two were for French members of the Christian congregation, bringing another 8,000 delegates.
Each convention was held at the Civic Complex. The location is perfect. The waterfront and Lamoureux Park make for a beautiful setting, the parking is plentiful and there are many options close by for shopping and dining.
We are talking about some major cash being spent in Cornwall. This year we had Jehovah’s Witnesses staying at NAV Centre, the Ramada Inn, the Best Western, First Canada Inns and more. Supper reservations are hard to come by as restaurants like Au Vieux Duluth, East Side Mario’s and Kelsey’s see a big increase in clientele. Small businesses also benefit from the conventions along with local corner stores, Cornwall Square and even small restaurant/bars like Remington’s and Spinners get a piece of the economic boom.
Often times, a city is not prepared to host such a large number of visitors. But it’s not the case with these conventions as the Jehovah’s book nearly a year in advance and often return to the same hotels. According to our tourism office, about $1.5 million was expected to be spent by our much welcomed visitors.
This year’s convention, entitled “Let God’s Kindom Come,” was a part of 42 district conventions across 22 Canadian cities. The programs are always open to the public, there is no charge and the conventions are run entirely by voluntary donations.
Not only are the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ conventions great for our economy, but most delegates are very friendly, approachable and family-orientated. The culture these Witnesses bring to Cornwall is also very diverse. They are not only English and French. You have Witnesses who speak Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Korean, Spanish and more.
And finally, have you ever seen an untidy member of these conventions? Everyone is very well dressed, courteous, polite and extremely mindful of our environment. Lamoureux Park and the Civic Complex do not look like the aftermath of a rock concert when the Witnesses leave town. Everything is clean and left just the way it was before the conventions began. It’s almost like they were never here. But our economy will definitely tell you they were.