Championship parade in New Orleans will kick off the NFL season Sept. 9
Published: Sunday, August 15, 2010, 10:00 AM
Mark Lorando, The Times-Picayune
Follow Share this story
Just think of it as Lombardi Gras: The Sequel.
Times-Picayune archiveOn Feb. 7, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his teammates took to the streets of New Orleans for a Super Bowl victory parade.
Nearly seven months to the day after the New Orleans Saints gave the city of New Orleans its first Super Bowl victory parade, the National Football League and NBC will give America a second one as part of the team's nationally televised Sept. 9 season-opening game against the Minnesota Vikings in the Superdome.
In addition to a previously announced Jackson Square concert featuring superstar Taylor Swift and the Dave Matthews Band, the NFL has teamed up with Blaine Kern Studios to produce a Mardi Gras-style parade that will roll through the French Quarter two-and-a-half hours before kickoff.
The parade and concert are the entertainment centerpieces of "NFL Opening Kickoff 2010 Presented by EA Sports," the league's ninth annual prime-time "football and music festival" in the city of the defending Super Bowl champions.
Where would you rather be?
Take the poll at the end of this story
"Given New Orleans' tradition of parades and music and food and football, we decided to combine all those things into a single celebration," said NFL Senior Vice President of Events Frank Supovitz, who will be in New Orleans on Monday for a noon news conference to formally announce "The Krewe of NFL Kickoff Parade."
View full sizeThough relatively small by Carnival standards -- seven floats and eight marching bands -- the procession will be similar in size to the Super Bowl parade, Blaine Kern Studios president and CEO Barry Kern said.
Trucks decorated to represent all 16 opening-weekend matchups will be part of the parade, as will an unspecified number of NFL sponsor-driven vehicles. Float and vehicle riders will include New Orleans chefs and musicians as well as ex-NFL players; judging from past celebrations, NBC series stars also may be part of the mix. All will be tossing throws created by the NFL specially for the occasion.
Taylor Swift will perform in Jackson Square before the Saints' home opener on Sept. 9.
The parade will begin at 5 p.m. and follow a slightly truncated version of Kern's Krewe of Halloween parade route: staging on Elysian Fields Avenue, disembarking from Esplanade at the river, proceeding on North Peters to Decatur past the St. Louis Cathedral, back to North Peters, across Canal and Poydras streets to Tchoupitoulas, where it will disband.
Unlike the Halloween parade, it will not swing down Canal Street to reach more revelers.
"They're trying to keep all the parade traffic on the river end of the major thoroughfares," Kern said, "to make sure the game traffic moves."
As floats reach the music stage in Jackson Square, the parade will pause for live performances by Swift and Matthews. The frequent delays, Kern joked, will make it "just like a regular Mardi Gras parade."
Times-Picayune archiveDave Matthews will help ring in the Saints' 2010 season with his Jackson Square performance Sept. 9
Supovitz described the format as a cross between Mardi Gras and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, which "pauses in front of the store, a Broadway show number is performed, and then the parade continues," he said. "As this parade passes Jackson Square, it will pause for a musical number, and continue."
NBC, which also broadcasts the Macy's parade, consulted with the league on the format, Supovitz said.
The music stage will be positioned in front of the steps at Washington Artillery Park overlooking Jackson Square, with performers facing the cathedral.
The live audience will be divided into two sections. A small group of fans, likely numbering in the hundreds, will stand on Decatur Street directly in front of the stage during performances, moving "back and forth" to clear the street when the parade passes, Supovitz said.
A second group of fans, numbering in the thousands, will stand on the square, behind the first group but clear of the passing parade.
Although the event is free, and the concert viewable from multiple vantage points, tickets will be required for admission to the official viewing area between the cathedral and the stage. More detailed boundaries will be announced when ticket information is released "relatively close to the event," Supovitz said.
Complaints about the lineup and format began to surface within minutes of NBC's Aug. 8 on-air announcement that Swift and Matthews would headline the night's entertainment. Internet forums have been buzzing with objections to the lack of local musical talent on the game-night marquee.
"I never understand the reasoning behind this kind of thing," wrote a NOLA.com user named Jock-a-mo, echoing the sentiments of dozens of other commenters. "There are enough rocking New Orleans musicians to blow the roof off the place. Kermit (Ruffins), Dr. John, Harry (Connick Jr.), Wynton (Marsalis). These are nationally known. Add a few local favorites and you would give the show a flavorful gumbo. What do we get? Bland alphabet soup. Anybody got a bottle of Tabasco?"
Supovitz responded to the criticism by saying the lineup is designed to give New Orleans free access to major acts, and to give NBC "artists with a broad appeal nationally."
He added, without divulging specifics, "We recognize the incredible musical talent in New Orleans, and we have some surprises planned."
As for another growing complaint -- that the timing and location of the pregame extravaganza makes it difficult or impossible for fans attending the game to take part -- Supovitz said the goal is to create a celebration for the entire city, not just the 70,000-plus fans with reserved Superdome seats.
"There are some areas along the route that would allow people to catch the parade and get to the game relatively quickly," he said, referring specifically to the point at which it crosses Poydras. "But this is really an event for the people of New Orleans who are not lucky enough to have tickets to the game."
Besides, he said, those ticket-holders will see the ultimate pregame celebration, the details of which will remain under wraps until game night.
"There will be a 'championship moment' in the pregame at the Superdome," he said, adding coyly, "a moment which could potentially include a banner raising."
The looming question of how employers will get anyone to work on Sept. 9 is a problem that Supovitz and Kern will leave for others to solve.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Kern said. "All I'm going to say is the same thing I said before the Super Bowl parade in February: I would get out there early."