NEW ORLEANS -- It is shaping up to be a major event in New Orleans on Thursday, as the Saints take on the Minnesota Vikings in the Superdome to kick off the NFL season. A parade and concert will accompany the game, and last-minute preparations are well underway for all the festivities.
Several miles from the 'Dome, things are cooking in Metairie ahead of the season opener.
Tommy Cvitanovich's seafood restaurant, Drago's, is in the midst of preparing copious amounts of spinach risotto. It is just one of the menu items they will be selling at Champion's Square -- and they expect to feed hundreds.
"Getting ready for a big day," Cvitanovich said. "We're expecting a huge day to mark it, because people are going to come out early and they'll stay there 'til game time. Then you'll probably have some people in the square after the game starts as well."
Just down the block from Champion's Square, tailgaters are already camped out on Loyola Avenue. Zane Galbert is one of them; 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."
Galbert's nearby neighbor in that prime location is Will Lizardo. His "Who Dat" bus is parked next to a tent, and features a flat-screen TV at the ready. He plans to start cooking early tomorrow, not just for the 50 people he invited, but for any stragglers who show up as well.
"I invited about 50 people, but like always, you got some crashers that come in, that weren't invited," Lizardo said with a smile. "But hey, if they're Who Dats, we don't care -- and if they're Minnesota Vikings, we don't care, either."
Over near Mardi Gras World, the hot ticket wasn't the one to the game, but the one to the concert scheduled beforehand. The Dave Matthews Band and Taylor Swift will perform on Thursday in Jackson Square.
Three thousand free tickets were given away online, but had to be picked up in person on Wednesday at 6:30 pm. Terri Bermudez was the first one in line and said she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I got here at 12:30 p.m.," she said. "It's a once in a lifetime history. It's making history, it's fun, it's what we all came for -- it's what we waited for for all these years. Who Dat!"
On game day, some schools in New Orleans plan to let students out early to avoid traffic issues. Some places just won't be open at all -- including Drago's in Metairie, which is giving most employees the night off. Even City Hall will be closed.