NEW ORLEANS-- It's off to the races in New Orleans on Saturday, with the Louisiana Derby for horses and the Crescent City Classic for all kinds of people.
"You have the serious runners, who are out there for the reason of running, or to get to the post-race party first," said Jessica Demello, who will be running for the second time. "Then you have the people who are out there to party and just have a good time."
It is a good time, which is joining forces with the Louisiana Derby. It is celebrating its 100th running with an infield festival.
"This is the first time we have allowed the public into the infield for racing day since the 1930s," said Jim Mulvihill of the New Orleans Fairgrounds.
In the run up to the Derby, the Crescent Classic will run up Esplanade Avenue. The two events coordinated their start times, so that one wouldn't impact the other. Yet, both end up impacting the New Orleans economy: for the Classic alone, upwards of 24,000 runners are expected.
About a quarter of all the runners in the Crescent City Classic come from out of town. That could easily translate into hundreds, if not thousands, of hotel rooms booked in New Orleans during Easter weekend.
"For the day before Easter, it's a great boost for them," said Eric Stuart, director of the Crescent City Classic. "I think New Orleans has become a destination for Easter."
Tourism leaders said the Louisiana Derby also provides a boost for areas outside the French Quarter and Downtown.
"It brings an economic impact to other areas of the City of New Orleans, brings jobs, more opportunities for our citizens," said Mark Romig with the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation.
The Crescent City Classic begins Saturday at 8 a.m.-- that is a half-hour earlier than last year. The first post for the Louisiana Derby is set for 1 p.m.