NEW ORLEANS -- Still caught up in the fervor of last season’s Super Bowl title and with national spotlight set to shine on the city as the NFL season opens in New Orleans, the tailgating started early as government offices were closed and schools dismissed early in anticipation of the pregame parade and Saints-Vikings showdown.
The party hasn’t ended since Saints won their first NFL title, and much like the Mardi Gras atmosphere New Orleans is shutting down to throw a party to celebrate the Saints and the opening of the NFL season.
"I don’t think these fans will put last season behind them truly forever, certainly not until the opening kickoff. They’ll celebrate last year’s title up until toe meets leather and the game begins,” said Jim Henderson, Eyewitness Sports director and the voice of Saints.
City Hall is closed for business Thursday – government offices in Jefferson Parish and Kenner close early – streets are closed and many schools are letting their students out early as the city will likely come to a halt for the pregame parade – the Krewe of NFL – and concert in Jackson Square with Taylor Swift and Dave Matthews and, of course, the game.
Drawing inspiration from Mardi Gras and the Saints victory parade, officials from the NFL added from the usual concert that kicks off the game, adding Mardi Gras-styled floats that will run behind the concert.
“Look at the way this city celebrates,” Frank Supovitz, NFL senior VP of Events, “it’s all about music here, but it’s also all about the people being able to get out on to the streets, celebrate, throw beads, catch beads.”
“We really had to capture that.”
The parade will slip through the backdrop of the concert three times, said Supovitz.
Schools such as the Recovery School District will let out 1 p.m. for elementary students and 1:30 p.m. for high school students.
Decatur Street was closed from St. Louis to Dumaine streets for the massive pre-game concert and parade in the French Quarter, and the Algiers Ferry began restricting traffic early.
Tailgaters staked out their spots 24 hours in advance in the Central Business District for the game, a rematch of the NFC Championship Game, which the Saints won in overtime.
Just down the block from Champion's Square, tailgaters are already camped out on Loyola Avenue. Zane Galbert showed up Wednesday; he drove in from Mobile to secure a prime location for what is expected to be an all-day party.
"We're going to have some good food tomorrow, some crawfish etouffee, some stuffed burgers," he said. "[We're going to] enjoy the food, enjoy the weather, enjoy the friends and just enjoy the day and get ready for game day."
Tickets are scarce and prices on Craigslist and NFL Ticket Exchange averaged $300 per ticket for a chance to the see the Saints raise the championship banner.