Jan 25, 2010 2:51 PM by Letitia Walker

Saints Fans Celebrate

 NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans Saints fans were hoping Sunday to
turn the Superdome, a symbol of suffering after Hurricane Katrina,
into a party scene that would transcend any Mardi Gras.
      The parking lots outside the dome teemed with tailgaters hours
before the kickoff for the Saints' NFC Championship game against
the Minnesota Vikings. Many more fans were staking out barstools in
the city's famed French Quarter.
      The Saints, once derided as the "Aints" by their
long-suffering fans, were playing for their first trip to the Super
Bowl since the team's founding in 1966.
      Sunday's game also marked the first time New Orleans has hosted
a conference championship game. Some fans couldn't wait for the
revelry to begin.
      Shane Songy of Chalmette, La., set up a tent outside the dome at
7 a.m. By the afternoon, he had ribs, chicken and hamburgers
grilling on a barbecue pit and was serving up jambalaya to friends
and family.
      "For years, we've been season ticket holders," Songy said.
"This is a dream come true."
      A group of nuns headed to the dome wearing rosary beads and
waving Saints flags. They were going to the dome early for a
private Mass with Saints owner Tom Benson.
      "This team has given the city so much hope," said Sister Mary
Rose Bingham, a nun at Cathedral Academy, a Catholic school in the
French Quarter. "What I love most is the hope and unity they have
given us."
      The Saints' title run has been a rallying point for a city still
struggling to recover from Katrina's epic destruction in 2005. Win
or lose, extra police patrols reportedly were planned near the dome
and in the city's French Quarter.
      Bourbon Street and its balconies were choked with fans waving
Saints flags and sporting black-and-gold feather boas and plastic
      Kathy Rizan, of Mandeville, La., danced in place in the middle
of a thick crowd on Bourbon Street, with daiquiri in hand, as a
brass band played "Do Whatcha Wanna."
      "This has been the most amazing season," she said. "I knew
our time would come, and I wouldn't miss any of this for
      Throughout the French Quarter, fans wearing black and gold got
their faces painted with fleurs de lis and broke into spontaneous
cheers of "Who Dat!" as they passed each other.
      Even many of the Vikings fans in town were having a good time.
      "When we found out the Vikings would be playing the Saints, we
immediately booked our flight to New Orleans," said Jerry Lucken
of Apple Valley, Minn., who arrived in New Orleans on Saturday with
his wife, Lois.
      "We're having a blast," said Lois Lucken, who wore a purple
and gold feather boa around her neck.


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