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Bill’s Blog: Happy New Orleans Year

Bill’s Blog: Happy New Orleans Year

NEW ORLEANS — Alden Bynum said it best.

"New Orleans isn’t a city; it’s a culture."

Bynum is one of the many people helping shepherd media and others around for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Like many locals, being a part of this city isn’t a place to live, it’s a lifestyle.

People visit places like New Orleans to experience the uniqueness. People stay because it becomes part of them.

In the case of the past five years, they came back for the same reason.

Later this week, students and administrators from both Arkansas and Ohio State will participate in a work trip to the Ninth Ward. We will be there for half a day at most, then we’ll get to return to the team hotel and to the business of the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

For folks like Clare Durrett, the aftermath of Katrina has become a part of them. Full disclosure, Clare and I were classmates a long time ago in a place far, far away; the north Louisiana city of Monroe. Her path had taken her into Texas until August 28, 2005. Like many of us who were from the state, but not of New Orleans, she had come to the city for an event — a triathlon she’d been training for some time.

As she recalls Aug. 27th, she and her friends were focused on the competition. And when it was cancelled, decided to stay and see what she could, ride it out maybe. At the last hours, she left, taking a couple of locals and their belongings with her to assist once the manditory evacuation came.

Twenty-seven hours later, she managed to reach home and Texas. And almost immediately began to try to get back to help. She was one of the folks in the flood waters, first volunteering as media to help record the events. What she saw changed her; it made her a part of New Orleans.

For the past several years, she’s dedicated herself to helping rebuild that culture through Save NOLA, a non-profit founded by Clare and three women after Katriina.

Raising a little over $400,000 for area groups, mostly through small donations and purchases and grass roots work. They receive no outside funding, except for a small storefront they maintain in Jackson Brewery. They support many of the other organizations in the area – Brees Dream Foundation, Make It Right, Habitat for Humanity, Global Green, New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Lake Ponchartrain Basin Foundation and Evacuteer.

One of the ways they chose to make a difference was by helping rehab homes in the Ninth Ward. One of their success stories came from partnering with Habitat for Humanity as Save NOLA handed over the keys to its first house on April 27, 2007. One deserving musician rebuilt his life through his new home after losing everything.

At right, that him on his home site after the deluge. And in the corner, he and Clare the day Save NOLA presented him with a home.

That is how a culture survives, and over time, it will be how a city rebuilds.

Razorback fans rolling into town will certainly ask about Katrina, and what the Ninth Ward and other areas devestated by the disaster look like. Those staying in the Warehouse District (in and around the Superdome) and French Quarter won’t really notice any difference. Trust me, it is out there, and the work continues. If you’re here — especially if you are attending the Allstate Sugar Bowl pep rally for the Razorbacks on the afternoon of Jan. 3 — you might go next door to the Save NOLA store in the old Jax Brewery. I have it on good authority there are some women’s Razorback red shirts in a limited supply.


I feel compelled to have a more literal dateline, something like JACKSON SQUARE. While the No. 8 Razorbacks were tucked safely away for an 11 p.m. curfew, things were jamming in the French Quarter. And yes, New Year’s Eve is over, but this city does have a particular skill at putting on a party. The Razorback nation will find plenty in the Quarter. Here’s a quick video of a couple of the street bands — the entertainment and night life is, well, N’Awlins.

Two Razorback events are sold out in the Quarter — the House of Blues event and Bobby Petrino Live from the Quarter on Jan. 2. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a ton of fellow Hogs in the area to go out and enjoy.

Plus, the afternoon of Jan. 3 is the official bowl pep rally at the Allstate Fan Fest. If you can’t be down next door to Jax Brewery — right by Jackson Square — we will have video coverage of the event here at

Darius Rucker is the special guest for the 2010 Allstate Fan Fest, and Jan. 3 at 6 p.m. after the two team pep rallies Rucker will have a free concert at the Allstate Fan Fest stage. Tomorrow night, New Orleans’ own Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue will have a free concert starting at 6 p.m.

Speaking of video, we now have a separate archive page just for all the video clips from press events and other specialty videos. It is linked from Sugar Bowl Central, but you can also get there from this link.


The Louisiana State Museum opened an exhibit on the storm and the aftermath: Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond. Displayed at the Presbytere, part of the historic building surrounding Jackson Square, unfortunately the LSM is closed Mondays and this year with New Year’s on Sunday shuttered for most of bowl weekend. They are open on game day Tuesday and are offering half off admission for anyone wearing team colors on Tuesday or Wednesday. If you want to read more about the opening of the exhibit in October, jump here.

Sports Category : Football