<span style="">An eclectic blend from seemingly all walks of life descended on Lafayette Square in New Orleans' Central Business District to join the party this evening in downtown New Orleans.
The occasion was actually two celebrations melded into one: the first order being the weekly free concert series entitled "Wednesday at the Square" presented by the Youth Leadership Council and sponsored by the New Orleans Saints. The second order of business called for a celebration on the heels of New Orleans' being awarded Super Bowl XLVII in a vote of NFL Owners on Tuesday afternoon.
The rhythmic sounds of Letters to Cleo and MaryAnne Marino energized the post-business day crowd that swelled throughout the evening as the park overflowed with throngs of people celebrating the Crescent City's good fortunes.
Saints Owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle, and Saints' Owner/Executive Vice President Rita Benson LeBlanc headlined an all-star crew of Saints personnel, which also included Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis, Head Coach Sean Payton, and many of his current players.
Mr. and Mrs. Benson mingled throughout the crowd and received hundreds of well wishes and handshakes, seemingly each with the same message: "thank you." The owner, who will be in his 25th season of ownership of the team in 2009, stopped and chatted with the patrons and talked Super Bowl, the Saints and about Benson's hometown.
Mr. Benson took to the stage and was applauded by the thousands in attendance and thanked the fans for supporting the team and helping New Orleans rebound from the devastation of the 2005 forces of Hurricane Katrina.
"This is a sign that we are back," Benson said. "We came together to get this done. A lot of people put in thousands of hours to bring this game to New Orleans and we are not going to disappoint."
Benson shared a story from yesterday evening when someone at the meetings suggested that they could arrange for up to 10,000 extra people to come to New Orleans to help with the Super Bowl. Benson laughed, shook his head from side-to-side and remarked, "I told them 'thank you, but we have all the people we need right here in New Orleans.'"
Mr. Benson then introduced LeBlanc, who graciously thanked the fans and introduced the countless high-profile figures that were so instrumental in the Saints' garnering of the Super Bowl.
Among the key players that LeBlanc introduced in the Saints' bid to land the Super Bowl XLVII were Jay Cicero, President & CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, Ron Forman, Chairman of the LSED, Rod West, Chairman of Entergy New Orleans and Stephen Perry, President & CEO of the LSED. Both West and Perry were lauded by many in the voting room for their passionate and convincing speeches in front of the ownership contingents.
Landrieu then spoke briefly and relayed a conversation he had this afternoon with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Landrieu stated that he imparted to the commissioner that the city was holding a pep rally to celebrate the city's earning the 2013 Super Bowl, and Goodell laughed and said, "There is always a reason to throw a party in New Orleans."
Landrieu concurred and said that nobody does it better than The Big Easy and that the plans are already in gear to make it the best Super Bowl ever.
LeBlanc then introduced Payton, who received an extremely warm reception from the crowd. "Thank you," Payton said. "This is a great event and it's wonderful to see everyone out here this evening. Getting the Super Bowl is obviously a very big deal and something we should all be proud of. But that being said, one of the mission statements we have and embarked on when our staff took over here was to get in the Super Bowl. So our intent and resolution hasn't changed and that's what we are working towards, I can assure you."
While Payton's remarks weren't overly lengthy, they struck a cord with those gathered in attendance. And the respite from the rock-and-roll was over and the music once again started to play.
It was, once again, time to party. New Orleans style.