Get ready for a lot of traffic delays around the CBD as a huge convention comes to town. More than 35,000 youth, adults and volunteers from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are here, and you can expect traffic delays especially on Poydras Street each morning, as 150 buses in front of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday through Saturday from 6:30-11:30 a.m. and from 1-4 p.m. will load and transport the five waves of 11,000 people into the community each day, according to organizers.
One third of the teens will walk to the Superdome from their hotels in the Central Business District and the Warehouse District each morning, mainly along Poydras Street, departing from the Superdome from 8-10:30 a.m. and returning from 2-4 p.m.
The 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering will be held in New Orleans through Sunday and it's themed "Citizens with the Saints," which blends the rich faith history, diverse cultures and arts of this area with the convention's mission to service the city's public education system, shrinking wetlands and housing.
Kelly Schulz with the New Orleans Convention and Visitor's Bureau says the group is also doing a huge amount of charitable work while they're here. "The amount of volunteer service that these young people are doing throughout the community is absolutely amazing. And we really owe them a debt of gratitude. And we want our residents to honk, wave at them and say thank you!"
The ELCA will collaborate with nearly 50 different organizations during its outreach efforts, including the New Orleans Recreation Department, New Orleans Community and Schools Organization, United Saints, St. Bernard Project, UNITY New Orleans, Beacon of Hope, Second Harvest Food Bank and Common Ground Relief.
The group is coming together to practice discipleship through peacemaking for justice and organizers say, "The ELCA is a church that believes God is calling us into the world-together."
The ELCA also plans to collect one million books for New Orleans children and families. ELCA teenaged members will pack a book bag for every third and fourth grader in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes, and will distribute them through 51 local book festivals, with 16 open to the public. (At the 2009 ELCA Gathering in New Orleans, the youth packed and distributed 13,000 bags of school supplies for every child in third and fourth grade.)
<a href="http://www.neworleanscvb.com/includes/content/docs/articles/Book-Festival-List---7.16.12.pdf">For a list of public book festivals, click here.</a>
Schulz says when you're moving around these huge amounts of people, there's bound to be traffic delays, and the worst will most likely be around the Superdome.
During the day, organizer's say one third of the attendees will be in the metro area participating in community service projects and the remaining attendees will be in the MCCNO or exploring the city's attractions. Look for heavy pedestrian traffic in the French Quarter, CBD and Warehouse District through Sunday.
Wed, July 18-Sat, July 21; 4-6 p.m.: Tailgating, Champions Square
Thurs, July 19-Sat, July 21: Community Service projects, Locations
Wed, July 18; 7-8:30 p.m.: Opening with performance by singer, songwriter Rachel Kurtz, Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Thurs, July 19; 7-8:30 p.m.: Mass gathering with speech by author and activist Shane Claiborne, Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Sat, July 21;11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: Public book festivals
Sat, July 21; 7-8:30 p.m.: Mass gathering with keynote speaker ELCA pastor Rev. Andrena Ingram, Mercedes-Benz Superdome