Preparing a warm welcome

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ --  Political consultant Mary Matlin and her husband, political commentator, James Carville greets the crowd at Saturday's NFL and Super Bowl Host Committee pep rally for Super Bowl XLVII volunteers and personnel at the Louisiana Superdome on Saturday
Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ -- Political consultant Mary Matlin and her husband, political commentator, James Carville greets the crowd at Saturday's NFL and Super Bowl Host Committee pep rally for Super Bowl XLVII volunteers and personnel at the Louisiana Superdome on Saturday

More than 3,000 Super Bowl XLVII volunteers and personnel gathered at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday afternoon for the Super Bowl Fans First Teammate Rally.

The event celebrated the work of volunteers, service and security staff, and all others participating to make “game day” in New Orleans a success.

The Saintsations, dressed in glittering black and gold, along with mascots Gumbo the dog and Sir Saint, greeted and posed for photos with visitors in the Dome as they arrived.

On the field, the Storyville Jazz Band performed on a small stage as the many employees and volunteers filled up seats in the first-level section reserved for the event.

Former Saint “Fast Freddie” MacAfee emceed the event, which also featured visits and short talks from notable locals including political consultants James Carville and wife Mary Matalin. Rockin’ Dopsie, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Tom Benson also were on hand to celebrate with employees and volunteers.

Bill McConnell, director of events for the NFL, explained that the talks from the special guests at the event were meant to emphasize “the opportunity that we all have to put fans first and welcome the world to New Orleans.”

“The NFL appreciates that those local people that are here working on our behalf, even if they don’t work directly for the NFL, are our teammates and they are representing the Super Bowl and New Orleans to those people that are coming to New Orleans to experience the Super Bowl,” McConnell said.

Many volunteers agreed that representing New Orleans in a positive light is important and cited a desire to help with that effort as being among their reasons for volunteering for the Super Bowl.

Volunteer Patricia Morris said, “I love promoting New Orleans and I volunteer in other areas of the city and I thought, ‘what a wonderful way to promote our city.’”

Volunteer Jacquelyn Jones said, “I’ve lived here all my life so to help the city out, I love it. I enjoy helping the city out any way I can.”

Jones, a Saints season ticket holder for more than 30 years, also said, “And I’m a football fan!”

Diane Brouillette, on the other hand, said she and her husband sought out volunteer opportunities for the Super Bowl just to have fun.

“Because we volunteer with the French Quarter Fest and the Satchmo fest, we knew that they were going to need volunteers, so we signed up online,” she explained.

“I think it’s very well organized, they have it all together, and it’s going to be fun,” she said of the Super Bowl.

Her husband John Brouillette, with his arms around two Saintsations, said he is happy to volunteer for a different reason — “The ladies,” he joked.

Jeff Rossi, director of volunteers for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, said more than 8,000 volunteers have been recruited to help New Orleans with the Super Bowl.

Rossi also said Super Bowl XLVII, which takes place Feb. 3, should be an exciting one.

The NFL, he said, “is putting a lot into this to make it a great event.”