LAFAYETTE — More than 200 Ragin’ Cajuns fans formed a sea of red along Reinhardt Drive to wave goodbye to their beloved football team as players hit the road to face the Nevada Wolf Pack in the 2014 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
The three-time New Orleans Bowl-champion football team walked from the locker rooms to team buses, flanked by fans on both sides. With M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field serving as a backdrop, the buses drove off on their way to the Big Easy.
The team’s players received warm parting chants, hugs and words of encouragement by fans and family as they made their way down Reinhardt.
At the front of the line of fans giving high-fives to the players was Keith Faulk, a lifelong Cajuns fan, season ticket holder and University of Louisiana at Lafayette alumnus.
“They’re finally winning,” he said. “It’s a shame that they have to win to get this many people to cheer them on. I hope they keep that support no matter what happens in the future.”
Faulk graduated in 1969 and said he’ll be in New Orleans this weekend to cheer on his team.
“It’s like a second home to us,” he said. “I’ll go every time they go.”
Although this will be their fourth bowl trip to New Orleans, the fervor still resonates with the team.
Head coach Mark Hudspeth said it’s exciting for fans to take a holiday season trip to New Orleans and have a chance to join friends at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to root for their team.
The relatively close proximity to Lafayette and the just-before-Christmas timing of the bowl make it more than just a game for Cajuns fans, Hudspeth said.
“Some bowl games have you practicing all the way through Christmas,” he said. “You sort of get to give (a trip to the bowl game) as a gift to your family. Come out and enjoy the weekend in the city and support the Ragin’ Cajuns.”
The team was scheduled to watch the New Orleans Pelicans take on the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, sitting right behind the home team’s bench.
“They’re probably as excited about (the Pelicans) game as anything,” Hudspeth said Tuesday. “We’re going to kick back tonight and enjoy an evening of relaxation and have a good time watching some NBA basketball.”
On Thursday, the Pride of Acadiana Marching Band will lead bead-throwing Cajun fans down Bourbon Street in the Ragin’ Cajuns Parade.
The parade starts at 9 p.m. at the New Orleans Marriott.
On Friday, the Marriott will host the Ragin’ Cajuns Fan Fest from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The free, live music event will host Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie.
After the Fan Fest, a free concert featuring Kool and the Gang and Cheap Trick will be held for fans of both teams at the Smoothie King Center near the Superdome. The concert previously was to be held at Champions Square, but it was moved due to the possibility of inclement weather. The concert will last until 10 p.m.
On Saturday, a pregame party will be hosted from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. at Champions Square, where a local disc jockey will play music as the gates open at 8:30 a.m. for the game, which is at 10 a.m.
“This is my last (New Orleans Bowl), so I’m more excited than ever,” said starting quarterback Terrance Broadway before boarding the bus Tuesday.
“Come early and stay late, and enjoy yourself,” Broadway said. “Give us everything you have, and we’ll give you everything we have.”