Certain cities and sites have a mysterious lure about them during particular events and times of the year: New York for the holidays, the Vatican City at Easter, Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice, Washington for the Fourth of July, Las Vegas for March Madness, New Orleans for Mardi Gras. There are many others, of course.
The Crescent City this time of year typically is gearing up for the parades and spectacles of its unique Mardi Gras celebration. Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, falls on Feb. 16 this year. New Orleans will be packed in the days leading up to that date.
But this Sunday, Feb. 7 – Super Bowl Sunday – there will be an excitement in New Orleans never felt before. See, that city’s NFL team, the Saints, is making its first appearance in the Super Bowl, played this year in another American Party city: Miami.
Long-suffering Saints fans won’t be making the usual trip to the city of the Super Bowl this year, though. They are making pilgrimages to New Orleans. The Associated Press today in a feature story on the topic of ex-pat New Orleanians making trips home reports the city is already filling up. Some are taking the week off work to make the trip. I have a co-worker here in Memphis, a New Orleans native, who will be taking off work Friday to head down. She felt the pull from home to be there.
I can relate somewhat. When my Memphis Tigers played in the 2008 Final Four national championship game, I was going to spend the night somewhere – anywhere – in Midtown and Downtown Memphis celebrating with other Tigers fans. It wasn’t meant to be as Kansas pulled off the late comeback, but the pull to be around other Memphians during that time of potential ecstasy was real.
And that will be the scene this weekend in New Orleans. The following from that AP report sums it up best. A New Orleans transplant living in Atlanta had vowed she would travel to Miami if the Saints made the Super Bowl.
"But seeing the fever pitch in New Orleans and knowing how we party, I changed my mind," Belinda Hernandez told the AP. "Who wants to be on Miami Beach when they can be in the French Quarter with the Who Dats for the game?"
The AP reported hotels in New Orleans have been experiencing large jumps in occupancies. Not the case in Indianapolis, home of the Colts and the Saints favored opponents this weekend, where the story quotes a spokeswoman for that city’s convention and visitors association saying there has been no noticeable jump in hotel occupancy for the weekend.
Why is that? Maybe their fans are heading to Miami. Maybe it’s the fact the Colts were in the game just a few seasons ago and their fans have come to expect these big things. Or maybe it’s just that New Orleans is one of those cities that has a peculiar draw to residents, former residents and visitors alike.
I'm not sure if I would be in New Orleans if I were a Saints fan. I know I'd want to be, though.
Photo credit: Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune