Parade vies with Super Bowl at Carnival in New Orleans; bars see chance for big business

Monday, February 4, 2008
Entertainer Hulk Hogan, who will reign as King Bacchus, celebrates with staff and patients at Children's hospital in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 1, 2008. The Mardi Gras parade will march through the streets of the Crescent City on Sunday evening. Holding the Bacchus plaque is Owen Brennan and at right is Carl Barre. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

NEW ORLEANS -- It won't just be wide receiver Plaxico Burress shouting "throw me something, mister" Sunday evening.

While hometown hero Eli Manning is leading Burress and the New York Giants against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, conflicted Carnival revelers will try to balance their desire to see the big game with watching the big parade.

Bacchus -- one of the biggest and flashiest of New Orleans' Mardi Gras parades -- steps off at 5:15 p.m. CST. The Super Bowl kicks off at 5:17 p.m.

The captain of Bacchus said he has been bombarded with requests from float riders to bring TVs or mount satellite dishes on the floats that will travel the city's traditional Uptown parade route through the Garden District.

"I don't think the crowd will be much smaller," Owen Brennan III said. "Our ball is sold out, our floats are full. But we will have the game on big-screen TVs at the ball. And we have a lot of riders who want to take a TV on the floats with them."

Bacchus, one of Carnival's super krewes with 28 floats, 36 marching bands and upward of 1,000 riders, is one of the season's most popular parades. The Greek god of wine has been portrayed in the past by celebrities including Raymond Burr, Bob Hope, Dom DeLuise, Charlton Heston and William Shatner. This year, wrestler and reality TV star Hulk Hogan reigns.

Hogan, during a visit to Children's Hospital on Friday, replied "Absolutely!" when asked if taking part in the parade was worth missing the Super Bowl.

But he wouldn't say whether he'll be pulling for the Giants or the Patriots. "I'm staying neutral on that one," he said.

This year isn't the first time the Super Bowl and Bacchus have collided.

"It happened before," said Arthur Hardy, a Carnival historian and publisher of the Mardi Gras Guide. "It didn't seem to hurt attendance then. There's a little more connection now with Eli Manning being from New Orleans, but I think people still want to see Bacchus."

Hardy said he would tape the game and watch it Monday so he can attend the parade and ball that follows.

For restaurants and bars on the Bacchus route along historic St. Charles Avenue, the parade and game combination offers a chance for big business, said McKinley Eastman, manager and co-owner of the Superior Grill, where 27 televisions will be tuned to the game.

"Last time it happened the weather was great and people were mainly on the street, coming in here to get a drink and find out the score," Eastman said. "If it rains they tend to stay in here and run out to check the parade. Either way we do a ton of business."

In 2005, the New England Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 at the same time Bacchus was rolling.

The crowds did not seem any smaller, Brennan said.

"We didn't miss a lick," he said. "Our biggest fear is that some day it will happen and the Saints will be in the Super Bowl. That would have a great effect on our crowd."

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