I’ve been to a lot of parties in my time, but last night was one of the most phenomenal New Orleans parties—ever.
The New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation (NOTMC)—the local agency responsible for promoting leisure travel to New Orleans—organized and helped volunteer the staffing for a “media night” for the 5,000+ media people who are in town to cover Super Bowl XLVII, and for hundreds of local hospitality industry people, politicians and business leaders. The event was produced by the New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee.
Trust me, people, if the media wasn’t impressed by this event, then they couldn’t possibly be impressed by anything. It had everything: an out-of-this-world location; great food; free-flowing booze; fantastic music; a scenic outside location; Mardi Gras madness; and even a touch of Vegas. In a word: everything.
The party was held at Mardi Gras World—not the original location in Algiers, but the one near Henderson and Tchoupitoulas Streets next to the
Convention Center in the Warehouse District, close to where the Dan Patrick ESPN studio is set up.
Mardi Gras World is a place where local krewes stash their big floats when it’s not Carnival season, so anyone who’s never seen a float can get a good look. The Smokey Mary mega-float that rolls in Orpheus every year was on prime display and was the backdrop for food booths from hundreds of restaurants that included everything from Antoine’s to Walk-Ons to Nirvana to Borgne. Food booths literally lined the entire venue. I’ve never seen so much food at a party, ever. There were open bars every few feet, with Dan Aykroyd’s vodka brand (which he’s been in town promoting) Crystal Head — genius packaging in a crystal-clear skull — on an illuminated display.
Music, too: Big Sam’s Funky Nation and the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars, for starters. There were acrobats and circus performers. In addition to the Mardi Gras/Disneyland effect produced by all the glittery floats and Mardi Gras props were fantastic light displays, fanciful table settings and a massive custom-built wooden fleur-de-lis that spun (a la Wheel of Fortune) to point at iPad screens set up around the perimeter that displayed images from the NOTMC’s new campaign “Follow Your NOLA.” You spin the fleur-de-lis, it points to a certain set of images (depicting art, history, culture, music, etc.); images appear on the individual iPad and were also shown on a large screen. Media could get the images sent to them, as requested. Pretty cool.
But that’s not all…this was all in but one of the buildings in the Mardi Gras World complex. Leave the major float building and storage area and head to the second building, which has a plaza fronting the Mississippi River.
Between the two buildings was an outdoor stage with a Bonerama/Papa Grows Funk/Funky Meters co-op band featuring John Gros, George Porter, Jr., Craig Klein, Mark Mullins, and Brian Stoltz. There was also a New Orleans Tech area with a bunch of local nerd-trepreneurs who were showcasing their capabilities.
Head into the second building’s ballroom, with another huge stage, more liquor and food and acts Khris Royal and Kristin Diable. The piece de resistance, though, was the Grand Oaks Mansion, a totally indoor replica of a southern plantation, complete with oak trees, moss and a cloudy nighttime sky, full of bars, food and tons of media.
I cannot imagine the cost of this kick-ass event, but even a jaded media jock would have to admit that New Orleans really excels at throwing a party. The NOTMC, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Super Bowl Host Committee and everyone involved should be highly congratulated, because it was one helluva party. If we don’t get some positive press from this group both during and after Super Bowl, then there is no God.