Seven-year-old Logan Robin, dressed in a purple LSU hat and gold T-shirt, stopped to get a bowl of crawfish pasta with his dad, Christopher Robin, 33, of Covington.
Logan had spent the morning with his grandmother buying supplies for Harvey victims in Texas. “It flooded there,” Logan explained, noting that he and his grandma had picked up diapers, paper towels, sanitizing hand wipes and “good cleaning sprays that smell good.”
Because of the disaster, Saturday’s LSU game was moved from NRG Stadium in Houston to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. So Logan and his dad had driven to New Orleans to watch LSU play Brigham Young University in the fifth annual AdvoCare Texas Kickoff.
“I think New Orleans is the perfect spot,” Christopher Robin said. “No other city could be more sympathetic to what Houston has gone through.”
Robin said that before they walked into the Dome, the two of them, father and son, planned to do a little tailgating.
Their options were almost limitless in the parking lot at South Rampart and Poydras streets, which turned into a sea of purple and gold on Saturday.
To the left of them, people in purple shirts tossed large gold beanbags at purple goals painted with LSU logos. At the far end of the parking lot, someone had set up a row of bar stools at a mobile bar painted with the LSU logo. In the center of it all, people in Tiger gear were hitting ping-ping balls into tumblers of beer on a rectangular table painted green with white lines, like a football field.
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People in LSU shirts also spent the afternoon throwing beads from an antique fire truck decorated with iridescent bunting that drove around the Central Business District as its horn played the first few notes of "Tiger Rag."
But amid the hijinks there was charity.
The bowl of pasta Logan ordered benefited Harvey victims, thanks to an impromptu hurricane-relief fund set up by Jonathan and Katie Sample.
Normally, before LSU games, the Samples and their “3307” tailgate group gather around a few kegs of beer and barbecue grills loaded with cuts of meat and boudin. But on Saturday, the couple spent the day under their purple tent drinking less beer while tending to a massive vat of red beans, which they sold along with cold drinks and other food to benefit Harvey victims.
Culinary Productions, which catered their wedding last year, donated a big batch of crawfish pasta. Sample’s aunt cooked big containers of rice, and Jonathan added 20 pounds of deer sausage from his last hunting trip.
All donations will be given to Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization whose staff and volunteers arrived in Houston on Friday and are preparing to gut homes and clean yards there.
The idea for the pre-game fundraiser came from Jonathan Sample, 34, who was living in Long Beach, Mississippi, in 2005 when it was slammed by Hurricane Katrina’s 18-foot storm surge, which obliterated his house, leaving only a slab. “When it happens to you, you know what it feels like,” he said, expressing a sentiment shared by many New Orleanians on Saturday.
Katie Fontenot Sample, 29, took his idea and ran with it, soliciting donations, making signs and creating a chore list for crew members in a spiral notebook.
On Saturday, she served up a few plates to LSU Class of '99 classmates Daryl Johnson and Tony Boykin, who brought their 10-year-old sons, D’Andre Johnson and Carter Boykin.
“We bought it because it’s a Harvey fundraiser. But the food is good, too,” said Boykin, as he and Johnson joked with another classmate, Cedric Donaldson, who played defensive back for LSU back in the day. With seven hours to go until kickoff, the three men and their kids planned to tour through a few more tailgating spots before heading into the Dome.
A woman walked up to Katie Sample to say that she didn’t want any food but merely to give a $20 donation. That sort of generosity was on display all afternoon, Sample said, as a huge roar went up from the nearby beanbag toss, where one of four teams from the River Parishes tailgate group triumphed in a game.
Most of the River Parishes group is from St. James Parish, said group member Troy Roussel, 35. Like many of the other tailgaters, the River Parishes group had to scrap their Houston plans at the last minute and book accommodations in New Orleans, where participants in the Southern Decadence festival had already packed many hotels.
After a number of calls, Roussel found 24 open rooms at a hotel on St. Charles Avenue, and the group began making plans for Saturday.
“If we couldn’t go to Houston, you can’t beat New Orleans,” Roussel said, as he reveled in the sunny day and a momentary mild breeze.
The disaster shifted the game site but wouldn’t put a damper on the game itself, Roussel said. “They’ll probably have a moment of silence for everyone affected,” he said. “But as soon as that’s over, it’s game time.”