NEW ORLEANS-- With its traditional Thanksgiving weekend slot, Bayou Classic and its spectators are kicking off the so-called football "bowl season" in New Orleans by doing one main thing.
"We're spending money," said Diana Vinson, a fan of Grambling State. "We save all year for this."
"We stayed in a hotel and then we're going to the game to watch southern win," said Tiffany Smith-Gamble, a Southern University fan.
With its estimated $30 million economic impact on the city, the Bayou Classic marks the start of what could become one of the most lucrative bowl seasons New Orleans has seen in years.
"I don't know of any other time in New Orleans' history where we've had so many important, high-profile sporting events, back-to-back-to-back, which put us in a national spotlight and, really, is a great marketing tool for tourism," said Kelly Schulz of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tourism officials said the past year brought a number of major sporting events to the city, including the BCS National Championship Game and the Men's Final Four. However, this bowl season, which starts with the Bayou Classic and includes the New Orleans Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, will culminate with the Super Bowl in February.
"The real value is the publicity value and that's really priceless," Schulz said. "When you think of all of the eyes that are going to be on New Orleans, all the sports announcers -- when they come in and talk about what they did in New Orleans the night before, what they're eating, how great the city looks -- all of those things really do matter."
It matters to visitors, as well, who said they want to do what they can to help New Orleans.
"I've seen so many different changes down here, it's unreal," said Cloyd Cann, who graduated from Southern University. "I'm glad to see the city really came back."
"Anything we can do to revive this beautiful city is worth it to me," said Grambling State fan Freddy Vinson.
Looking beyond the Super Bowl in 2013, New Orleans will also host the NCAA Women's Final Four in the spring and the NBA All-Star Game in 2014.