DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – The City of Dallas has prepared for months to host MegaFest, a massive family entertainment festival created by Bishop T.D. Jakes from the famed Potter’s House, based in Dallas.
It’s no wonder the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau has been courting Jakes to move the event from Atlanta to Dallas for years.
“It’s going to be huge. We anticipate direct spending is going to be about $41 million into the local economy over Labor Day Weekend which is traditionally a slower period for us,” said Phillip Jones, President and CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
The festival kicked off Thursday morning with megastar Oprah Winfrey, who taped two shows from the American Airlines Center that will air on her cable network, the Oprah Winfrey Network, known as OWN.
About 15,000 people attended the taping of Oprah’s Lifeclass on Thursday.
Events, entertainment and empowerment sessions are also taking place at the Dallas Convention Center.
To prepare for the large crowds, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) brought in 24 buses to shuttle people between the two venues, which are normally not connected through bus routes. DART trains will also run for extended hours during the 3-day MegaFest, taking passengers until 2:30 a.m., instead of closing at midnight. Three hundred DART employees are also working along train and bus stops to help guide visitors to the correct trains.
“We added every possible train and bus that we have in our system. We put out additional trains. We additional cars to those trains and added frequency of our buses,” said Mark Ball, spokesperson for DART.
The Mega Fest is bringing mega star power to North Texas. Besides Oprah, popular Houston Pastor Joel Osteen, Kerry Washington, Jennifer Hudson, Cedric the Entertainer and Steve Harvey are among the celebrities who will make appearances at the event.
According to the Dallas CVB, more than 50,000 people are expected, many of whom are already filling up downtown hotels.
“All the major hotels downtown are full and that’s something we are excited about because traditionally this weekend, we’re usually at 50-percent [occupancy,]” Jones said.
Visitors from all over the country came to Dallas, specifically to see T.D. Jakes.
“I want to get as much as I can and learn from him and bring it back to my church and implement it,” said Rev. Karen Spencer, who came to Dallas from St. Louis, Missouri with her mother and sister. For her and many others, it was their first time visiting North Texas.
City leaders are hoping those visitors will return soon, on their own.
“It’s great exposure for Dallas,” Jones said.
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