Memphis Leaders Pleased by Huge Crowds Coming to the City for National Baptist Convention

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Trolley-style buses rolled down the Main Street Mall on Wednesday packed with Baptists on their way to the biggest convention to hit Memphis since the Church of God in Christ.

National Baptist Convention USA delegates filled hotels Downtown and beyond for the church’s Annual Session that began Monday and ends Friday.

Organizers said they expected to draw as many as 50,000, but nowhere near that many on any one day. Many participants will spend just one night.

Near the Court Square trolley station, Memphians Abdul and Velinda Rashad greeted visitors and handed out maps.

The Rashads, members of Hunter Avenue Baptist Church in North Memphis, were part of a legion of hospitality volunteers who fanned out across the city to help visitors find restaurants, transportation and other services.

As soon as one bus pulled away with a standing-room-only crowd, people emerging from nearby Court Square hotels started a queue for the next bus.

While Abdul handed out maps, Velinda greeted the gathering crowd with a “Good morning, everybody.” She shooed away a panhandler who approached one of the delegates and explained that the volunteers’ goal is for delegates to have the best experience possible in Memphis.

The Nashville-based convention, the nation’s largest black church group, turned heads in August when organizers increased their projection of how many people would attend the event at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. The church’s typical session attracts about 20,000.

To be sure, there’s no way to verify whether the projected 50,000 are coming to Memphis this week.

Memphis hotel and tourism officials said the convention came at an opportune time for Memphis, filling a normally slack period with sold-out nights at Downtown hotels.

“It’s definitely a good group for us,” said Kelly Earnest, spokeswoman for The Peabody. “Typically after Labor Day it’s a soft week for us but having the Baptist convention and then the Southern Heritage Classic overlap the way they have, we’ve got many sold-out nights. It’s a very good piece of business and we’re grateful for it.”

The 26th annual Southern Heritage Classic on Saturday pits Tennessee State University against Jackson State University at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

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SOURCE: Wayne Risher
The Commercial Appeal

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