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NFL: Super Bowl set to kick off in fun-loving New Orleans

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The bands were playing, the crawfish boiling and daiquiri's swirling Sunday as partygoers crammed bars and restaurants ahead of Super Bowl 47 -- the pinnacle sporting event that transfixes America each year.

New Orleans knows how to throw a bash and with the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras coming in the same month, football fans are getting a double dose of revelry in the build up to the big game.

The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers face each other for the first time in a Super Bowl to see who would be crowned the National Football League champion.

The most watched single event in US sports is just blocks from New Orleans' Bourbon and Canal streets where fans have been rubbing shoulders all week with athletes, corporate executives and Hollywood stars in town for the big bash.

The festive atmosphere is a much needed shot in the arm both spiritually and economically for New Orelans, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Fans began arriving outside the 70,000-seat Superdome stadium hours before the scheduled kickoff between the Ravens and 49ers while millions more were set to watch on television as the event capped a week of Super Bowl merriment in The Big Easy.

Those who were lucky enough to snag a ticket will have to navigate through a labyrinth of security just to get inside the Superdome, including passing through metal detectors, undergoing bag searches and pat downs.

People also crammed into bars and restaurants along Canal Street for lavish Super Bowl parties, stepping right into the party atmosphere and making sure they got there early to stake out a good spot to watch the ultimate gridiron showdown.

Celebrities like Alicia Keyes, who will sing the anthem Sunday, helped fill the VIP rooms this week and concerts featured everyone from Paul McCartney, to Lil Wayne to Justin Timberlake.

Many posh restaurants were booked for private parties catered by celebrity chefs famous for their unique southern cuisine. One of those was the Metropolitan Night Club in the Warehouse District which featured award winning chef John Besh, who owns eight restaurants in New Orleans.

Just blocks from the Superdome was the NFL Experience at the New Orleans Convention Center where fans have the opportunity to get autographs, play interactive games and look at the huge selection of memorabilia on display.

City officials have pulled out all the stops to let visitors know New Orleans is back in business after Katrina. The state of Louisiana provided $6 million and the local organizing committee raised $7.5 million to put on the game, which will also see pop star Beyonce sing at half-time.

The city has also been spruced up with building facades, lamposts, highway overpasses and the Superdome itself decorated with Super Bowl XLVII banners and signs.

The hordes of people flocked to raucous Bourbon Street all week where the strips clubs also got into the act by hiring extra dancers and stocking up on additional alcohol to keep up with the high demand.

Even the traditional beads tossed to revelers from balconies have a Super Bowl spin to them this year with some featuring miniature footballs while others were shaped like helmets.

Super Bowl 47 comes at just the right time to help with the The Big Easy's recovery. Before Katrina the city had 10.5 million visitors annually and projections are that more than nine million will visit the city in 2012.

On Monday most people are expected to leave via the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International airport. On a normal day about 15,000 people pass through the gates but Monday that number is expected to swell to close to 30,000.

gph/dw

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130209/nfl-super-bowl-set-kick-fun-loving-new-orleans