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Mardi Gras and Super Bowl: Does it get any better than this, New Orleans?

Posted on Jan 31, 2010 in Local Issues, Sports

By Mark Waller, The Times-Picayune January 31, 2010, 4:25AM saints-fans-whistle.JPGMichael DeMocker / The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Saints fans celebrate after a Pierre Thomas touchdown during the game between the Saints and Tampa Bay in December. span>mardi-gras-slidell.JPGGrant Therkildsen / The Times-PicayuneBeads fly as the Krewe of Slidellians present its parade Jan. 24. Nobody has ever collected data to describe the convergence of events that is about to unfold in New Orleans. No historical precedent exists to guide us. The scientific instruments have yet to be invented to measure this reality: The New Orleans Saints are in the Super Bowl. The next week is Mardi Gras. “I think it’s going to be insane,” said Ardley Hanemann, president of the Krewe of Orpheus, which will feature a float carrying coach Sean Payton. “I think it’s going to be over the top, the intensity, the energy and the jubilation, the spirit, the absolute abandon and love.” And that’s before we know the outcome of the title game. Who knows what will happen if the team wins in Miami? The Super Bowl has at times coincided with the last Sunday of Carnival season, the roll day of Bacchus, creating a party atmosphere befitting the Crescent City, and the 2002 Super Bowl held in New Orleans required some parade rescheduling. But the Saints’ first appearance in one of the world’s biggest sporting events in the middle of the Carnival season has rocketed the city’s mood into the stratosphere. “The Saints have brought in a new altitude of fun,” said Dan Kelly, owner of the Mardi Gras outfitter Beads by the Dozen in Elmwood. “Everybody’s sky-high.” On Thursday, Beads by the Dozen received 300 dozen generic black and gold beads with fleur de lis medallions. They sold out in four hours. The store also can’t keep official Saints beads in stock. And next week, Kelly said, the stampede of Who Dats through his doors will surely resume when he receives the first shipment of official Super Bowl beads. saints-fans-beads.JPGMichael DeMocker / The Times-PicayuneOutside the Superdome, New Orleans Saints fans throw beads to other Who Dats arriving for the NFC Championship game between the Saints and the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 24. “Instead of being purple, green and gold, it’s going to be purple, green, black and gold,” said Kenner Mayor Ed Muniz, captain of the Krewe of Endymion. Saints owners Tom Benson and his granddaughter Rita Benson-LeBlanc are riding in Endymion with an entourage from the team. Muniz said Benson’s float will stock 1,000 custom-made, second-lining umbrellas to dispense to the crowd, printed with dancing caricatures of Benson and the Greek god Endymion. The float will also carry 20,000 Benson cups. Benson is bringing 70,000 coins that commemorate the 25th anniversary of his team ownership. When Benson’s float rolls into the Louisiana Superdome for the Endymion Extravaganza mega-party that follows the parade, Muniz said he has instructed the band to play the team anthems “The Saints are Coming” and “Halftime (Stand Up and Get Crunk.)” Muniz was in the Superdome for the NFC Championship game when the Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings in overtime to advance to their first Super Bowl. The magnitude of the ensuing celebration was so great, with the Dome thundering, fireworks exploding in the streets, horns honking and Bourbon Street instantly filling with dancing, screaming revelers, that the only comparison Muniz could think of was the celebrations that erupted when World War II ended. So it might be an understatement to say the football-inspired partying already has a Carnival intensity, regardless of the outcome of the Feb. 7 game, Muniz said. “It’s going to go to another level for Mardi Gras,” he said. “It’s going to be a double-header. It’s going to be incredible.” Star quarterback Drew Brees will reign as Bacchus, throwing signature doubloons. Other players will likely appear in various parades, including running back Reggie Bush in Orpheus, Carnival producer Barry Kern said. Sources also say 23-year-old Garrett Hartley, who kicked the 40-yard field goal to beat the Vikings, is suddenly in high demand. A parade dedicated entirely to the Saints will roll on the Tuesday after the Super Bowl, win or lose. And plenty of Saints-inspired costumes are expected throughout the festive season. st-aug-marching-band.JPGTimes-Picayune archiveThe St. Augustine High School Marching 100, one of the most iconic bands of Carnival.The St. Augustine High School Marching 100, among the most iconic bands of Carnival, will perform in 10 parades, including Rex on Mardi Gras, with a repertoire adjusted for the Saints. The band will play a special arrangement of “Get Crunk,” a song that caught fire at games this season, opening with the bouncing, low-brass line that high school and college bands have played for years, band director Virgil Tiller said. The Marching 100 also will make a point of playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” “When we start playing and marching, the crowd gets hyper off that energy,” Tiller said. “It’s going to be big. It’s going to be real, real big.” Members of the Krewe of Muses, the all-female club known for its witty floats and clever throws, are applying black and gold to the hand-decorated, high-heeled shoes that serve as their signature party favors. “I’ve gone from zero to Saints fever in weeks,” Muses rider Alexandra Mora, said. “I bought black and gold nail polish the other day.” Mora and her fellow float riders are covering shoes with similarly colored glitter, beads and feathers, spelling out “Saints” and attaching fleur de lis bead medallions with glue guns. “I think the crowd reaction will be extraordinary,” said Mora, a founding member of Muses. “People are going to be so excited … It’s just great energy for the city.” The first Saintly Super Bowl also has inspired some logistical shuffling. Metairie’s Krewe of Rhea, scheduled to roll Super Bowl Sunday, canceled its parade, expecting low participation. Jefferson Parish also cancelled its Family Gras festival the same weekend. The Metairie Krewe of Centurions, which normally would roll that Sunday, moved to 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12. Hoping to provide a Carnival-style pre-game party, the New Orleans Krewe of Carrollton moved its ride up an hour, to 11 a.m., Super Bowl Sunday, followed by the Krewe of King Arthur at noon. The West Bank’s Krewe of Alla, facing a steep drop in ridership for its parade on game day, will roll a day earlier, which also pushed the Krewe of Choctaw and the Krewe of Adonis to earlier time slots, starting at 10:15 a.m. Saturday. Alla officials knew they were scheduled on the day of the Super Bowl long before they knew the Saints would be playing in it, so they planned a sports theme that now seems even more appropriate. The parade will include a Saints float with a 12-foot figure of Bush in motion on its bow and a drawing of Brees on the side. Its 40 riders will wear team jerseys. Throws will include referee flags. “I know the guys are loading up on all the footballs and all the sports throws that we have,” said Paul Leman, Alla president and assistant captain. Kern, president of float builder and Carnival producer Blaine Kern Studios, said his company has been dusting off all of the football and Saints props it can find in its workshop, including a float depicting the classic Saints character with the jutting chin, wearing a team helmet and uniform, which will appear in several parades. “A lot of organizations are paying homage to the Saints,” he said. barkus.JPGTimes-Picayune archiveBarkus will roll, er, walk an hour earlier, at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday. Even the dogs are getting into it. The Mystic Krewe of Barkus costumed canine parade, taking place on Super Bowl Sunday, will hold its parade one hour earlier, at 1 p.m., in anticipation of the game. Barkus is marching through the French Quarter to the theme, “Barkus Goes Tailgating: When the Dogs Go Barking In.” This year’s Barkus poster is a painting of dogs partying outside a stadium shaped like a giant dog water bowl. That’s right. It’s the “Super Bowl.”

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