LULAC convention means big boost to local economy

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The 82nd League of United Latin American Citizens convention or LULAC is underway at the Duke Energy Center and means a big boost for the local economy.

On Wednesday night, there was a "Cincinnati Celebration." It included food, drinks and live performances. The national convention features a number of events, including a health fair, job fair and college fair, plus, Latin music-- including the groups "Los Lobos" and "La India."

But it's not all fun and games.

Twenty thousand visitors are expected to stay, eat and play downtown this week. Many arrived on Wednesday afternoon and seemed happy to be in Cincinnati.

"They're very nice to me," said Johanna Cervantes, 8.

Ana Valeanzuela Estrada flew in Monday from Tucson, Arizona.

"It's great," said Estrada. "When I was looking up {at the big screen on Fountain Square,} I saw that the {Cincinnati Reds} were playing baseball! So I thought my God! So I was taking pictures of everything so I can show everyone in Tucson, Arizona. It's just like I'm from town! From my home town to another home town!"

Many are also happy to bring their wallets along.

"We've been to Macy's," said Jess Saenz who is visiting from California with his wife. "She spent a lot of money at Macy's. We spent more money at a restaurant and then, of course, we've spent a lot of money here at the hotel at the restaurant."

Business has been sweet just about all over downtown.

Karen Thompson runs Abby Girl Sweets. She said business has been up 20-percent this week.

"{Business} kind of starts off the first day and it builds with the conference," Thompson said. "Usually by the last day, you end up with quite a few people in here. Usually by the last day people come in to take back {cupcake} to wherever they're going."

Participants are expected to shell out two to three million dollars at Cincinnati-area restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and attractions.

"And then you think of all of the people that it takes in order for the organization to put on the event from staging, lighting, the electric, sound, security," said Dan Lincoln, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau. "All of those types of things go into huge economic impact that's pumped into the economy every time we have one of these conventions come in. It's a beautiful thing."

Yet for some, the truth is a little uglier.

All of the taxi drivers we spoke with said that business has been the same or actually down this week.

"I would say, over the last couple of weeks, there was a convention last week and most of the people walked," said taxi cab driver June Hill. "I guess maybe because the weather was so perfect, but it doesn't help us"

Still, Hill is hopeful that business will pick up by the end of the convention.

"If we do these conventions right then it always turns into other conventions down the road," said Lincoln.

Next week, the National Christian Coalition will be in town. The Elks will be here the last week in July, along with the Macy's Music Festival. In August, the International Shrine Convention will be held. It's expected to be one of the largest the city has ever hosted.

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