Friday, July 03, 2009

3 JUL 09: A Cold Summer Welcome

Aha - that explains it! We figured there was a reason why the Columbus Lions' home playoff game couldn't be played until Monday night. It turns out the Civic Center is booked throughout the weekend - and the team with "Hail Mary" passes has to wait until the firstborn Son of Mary gets proper attention.

We wrote here Monday that the Jehovah's Witnesses were not coming to the Columbus Civic Center this summer. Now we know that statement was wrong - and the annual religious convention begins today. You'd think members would have gone door-to-door, to offer free invitations....

The Jehovah's Witnesses conference has become a summer tradition in Columbus. But we were misled, because the Civic Center web site does NOT mention it anywhere. Even the July calendar of events leaves it out -- and that's about the only way most people would have discovered Fiesta Columbus had disappeared.

We called the Civic Center office Thursday, to ask why the Jehovah's Witnesses conference is NOT mentioned on its web site. After all, this is Columbus's biggest convention of the year -- so big that it's divided into two weekends, with an estimated 9,800 people coming to town. A few unruly children might even like the skateboard park nearby.

A staff member at the Civic Center admitted she didn't know why the Jehovah's Witnesses convention is missing from the web site. Perhaps it's because the conference isn't considered an "event," as a football game or concert might be. Or perhaps the thinking is if you've heard one sermon, you've heard them all.

I've attended church conventions in other cities where the event would be mentioned on the marquee outside the hall. But the Jehovah's Witnesses don't even have that courtesy outside the Columbus Civic Center. To be fair, neither did the United Methodist Church conference in June - so it's equal slapping of all denominations.

On top of that, the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau's web site also fails to mention the Jehovah's Witnesses. But then again, the "event calendar" for Saturday also fails to mention Thunder on the Hooch -- and that's practically outside the Visitors Bureau's doorstep. OK, who canceled the office subscription to the Ledger-Enquirer?

(Based on a sign we saw outside the downtown Visitors Center this week, you almost wonder if the staff is intentionally trying to scare religious people such as Jehovah's Witnesses away....)

The Jehovah's Witnesses are trying to spread the word that their convention is open to the public. Last week's Columbus Times had a long preview article, noting the denomination recently spent 18 months studying the Biblical book of Revelation. You'll apparently have to attend the convention to find out whether President Obama or Bill O'Reilly is the "anti-Christ."

A spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses also appeared on the 12:00 noon news Thursday. He explained this year's convention has a prophetic theme called "Keep On the Watch." In Columbus during summer, some moderation should be used with this - because if you wear your watch 24 hours a day, the band will gain a sweaty odor.

You might not agree doctrinally with what the Jehovah's Witnesses preach and believe. But c'mon now -- isn't their annual event a convention? Don't branches of the city want thousands of respectful people coming to Columbus and spending money? And these people wouldn't even think to gather outside the Fort Benning gate with giant puppets.

If you try to avoid the Jehovah's Witnesses by watching TV this weekend, it still might not work. I didn't realize until the other day that tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams belong to that denomination. So if you think they're hollering and groaning during Saturday's Wimbledon finals, it's really a "joyful noise of praise."

Back at the Civic Center, the evening news focused Thursday on the construction of a kitchen. It's part of the new concession agreement with Boston Culinary Group - and this is stunning to me. Do you mean the hot dogs at the concession stand simply were thrown in a microwave all these years?

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BLOG UPDATE: WRBL tried to follow up on our Thursday exclusive about a Phenix City sewage spill. But city officials wouldn't call them back to comment, either. They apparently consider that broken sewer line water under the bridge - if not something worse.

Let's drink in some of Thursday's news headlines now....

+ The Columbus city web site announced next Tuesday's Council meeting has been canceled. It was supposed to be "proclamation day," but there aren't any proclamations to be read or presented. The mayor must be waiting to see if Emily Cook really will keep the Miss Georgia crown.

+ Columbus Urban League President Reginald Pugh told WXTX "News at Ten" he suspects the United Way cut off its funding for political reasons. United Way President Scott Ferguson denied it, and indicated the Urban League has strayed from its mission. It has?! I don't recall any summer youth block parties being staged in Cataula.

+ Troup County authorities announced the seizure of dozens of illegal video poker machines from convenience stores, along with $64,000. The next step in this case should be obvious - to hold a legal poker tournament, so I can get a crack at that jackpot.

+ Instant Message to the owners of east Alabama fireworks stands: You ought to do what the government safety experts in Washington do. Some firecrackers are only fun to watch when they blow up watermelons.

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