They are probably the best-dressed, best-behaved group of convention-goers to come to Bakersfield each year.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are holding their annual convention at the Rabobank Arena in the city's downtown business district — and local businesses are thrilled.
The 2017 "Don't Give Up!" Convention runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday — but not just this weekend. The three-day schedule of presentations, symposia and Bible readings will be repeated on a total of seven weekends — four times in Spanish, three in English — due to the estimated 42,000 attendees coming from the Central Valley, the Central Coast and all across Kern County.
"This is the largest group of visitors that comes to Bakersfield each year," said David Lyman, manager of Visit Bakersfield, formerly the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With numbers this large, hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other venues are expecting a serious bump in earnings.
"It sells out Bakersfield," said Alexis Long, the rooms coordinator at Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center.
The Marriott is fully booked all weekend, Long said. And during her eight years in the hotel business, other top hotels in town are typically sold out as well during the convention.
"It's not just good for hotels, it's good for the community as a whole," she said. Families also go to museums, the movies and seek out other recreation.
"We're always happy to have them," Long said. "They're a great bunch of people, always lively and personable."
Lyman estimated the total economic impact of the multiple-week convention at $1.15 million, with the city collecting more than $100,000 in Transient Occupancy Taxes through hotel bookings.
"If you're planning on going out to dinner this weekend," Lyman said, "and you have to wait a little longer than usual, that's the sound of commerce happening."
And that translates to jobs, economic vibrancy and revenue to help support city services.
"We're not a very rowdy bunch," joked Larry Rau, a Witness and coastal resident who was at the convention helping with media services.
Indeed, they never leave a parking lot trashed, Lyman said, and according to Rau, hundreds of volunteers descended upon the arena before Friday's opening to clean it and make it shine for the weekend.
All Jehovah's Witnesses are asked to attend one three-day regional gathering — like this summer's Bakersfield convention — each year. There are hundreds of regional gatherings that have been happening across the country since May, including 27 this weekend alone.
One must admire the dedication. Rau, a San Luis Obispo resident, was just one of many who left the comfort of the Central Coast to come to the southern San Joaquin Valley during the hottest month of the year.
"When we left yesterday, the car thermometer was at 68 degrees," he said. "When we arrived, it was at 104."
Steven and Maria Anderson and their sons, Druce, 12, and Elam, 9, drove in from coastal Nipomo to attend the three-day event.
"It's a total shot in the arm," Steven Anderson said of the annual trip. "It's something we look forward to each year."
He called it a "haven" in today's less than wholesome world.
"I think is really helps (the children)," said Maria Anderson, "especially in the times we're living in to be good kids, to be obedient to their parents, and to put their faith first."
Meanwhile, Martin Flores of family-owned Cafe Crepes, across the street from the arena, said the convention is expected to provide the cafe with a nice bump in business.
On Thursday night, Uricchio's downtown restaurant located a few blocks away was filled almost exclusively with convention-goers.
"The whole restaurant," Rau said, "was Jehovah's Witnesses."