Nita Alba and Gary Henniger have never been to Lubbock, until now. "We have some beautiful churches in Baltimore, so I was very excited to come and see the art," says Nita Alba.
"We heard it's a really nice exhibit and if we don't take advantage of it while it was here we'd be sorely sorry for missing it," says Gary Henniger.
That is because this is the first time these 31 ancient Roman Frescoes have travelled outside the Vatican walls, and now thousands are traveling to Lubbock to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. Even first lady Laura Bush made a trip to Lubbock to catch a glimpse of the priceless art. It has been nine weeks since the exhibit opened and Museum Executive Director, Gary Edson, says he is amazed at the continued demand for tickets.
"We're still getting somewhere around 100 calls a day wanting reservations, we've had about 176,000 people requesting for tickets," says Edson. So far 70,000 people have visited the Vatican exhibit, and that number is expected to double before the exhibit leaves in September.
Mayor Marc McDougal says you can buy that kind of exposure. "You take 70,000 and they tell 10 of their friends and you start doing the numbers on that, and it can be a huge impact on the city long term."
With all that traffic moving through Lubbock, hotel business is booming. As much as 20% for places like the Farfield Inn. "We've seen a huge increase this past month. So it's been a win win situation for us and for the city," says Hotel Manager, Adam Holland.
"I'm spiritually uplifted, I'm so glad I was able to come," says Alba.
"I think it's truly a once in a lifetime opportunity," says Henniger.