Georgia Fans Invade New Orleans

As Wednesday night's Georgia-Florida State Sugar Bowl matchup nears, it is clear that New Orleans businesses are expecting the big business from Georgia fans.

Gift shops in the shopping mall connected to the Superdome have Georgia paraphernalia out front in the display windows.

Similar sales tactics are being used by many shops in the French Quarter. There is a widespread expectation that Georgia fans who have waited 20 years for this game will outnumber Florida State fans in the Superdome Wednesday night, and in the tourist spots in the next three days.

Georgia is making its first trip to New Orleans since 1982, but Florida State will be playing here for the fifth time in eight years.

Because No. 4 Georgia (12-1) is enjoying a more successful season than No. 16 Florida State (9-4) and the Sugar Bowl is the traditional reward for Southeastern Conference championship teams, the Georgia advantage in the stands could be significant.

"Traditionally, (ticket sales) are weighted in favor of the SEC school,'' said Sugar Bowl member Mike Christovich, the chairman of the Georgia host committee.  "I was (in Athens) for the Georgia Tech game, and I think the Georgia fans are really excited. There's just a whole generation of Dog fans who haven't been here.''  

Each school sold its allotment of 15,000 tickets, but additional tickets could be purchased through Ticketmaster and other sources.  

"My estimate is Georgia will have bought 20,000 to 25,000 tickets,'' Christovich said.  "We sell tickets during the year, and LSU fans  bought tickets hoping LSU would be here and then sold them to Georgia fans.''  

As of the weekend, it was too early to find a large representation of either fan base in the major tourist areas in town. More fans will hit the French Quarter and casinos today and Tuesday.  

Some Georgia fans traveled to New Orleans early in order to take full advantage of the long-awaited opportunity, and already they are making their mark.  On famous Bourbon Street, a large Georgia banner already hangs from a balcony.  

"There are a lot more Georgia fans here,'' said Marco Mena, assistant manager of Crawdaddy and Co., a gift shop on Bourbon Street. "Florida State people haven't gotten here yet,'' Mena said. "During the week it was mostly Georgia fans. And I think there are a lot of LSU people who are Georgia fans this week. My friends are, anyway.''  

Don Peck, a Warner Robins native who lives in Athens, said he rode an Amtrak train 13 1/2 hours from Atlanta Saturday. He wasted no time finding  Bourbon Street Saturday night.  Said Peck, 33, "I didn't go as a kid (when the 1980-82 Georgia teams played in the Sugar Bowl). I was only 10. I've got a bunch of friends coming down (today) but I thought I would get here early.''  

At the Hilton Riverside, the Georgia team hotel, there is no attempt to offer impartiality. Clerks at the front desk wear T-shirts which read "You can't spell Sugar without UGA.''  

The sports bar at the hotel has been renamed "Ugaville.'' It is serving drinks named Uga-Cane, the Arch, and Silver Britches.  

It also sells The Lineman, intended to honor one of Georgia's starters. The menu describes the drink as "A Jon Stinchcomb-sized bottle of beer.''  

For meals, Ugaville is paying tribute to two of the biggest names from Georgia's 1980-82 SEC champion teams. It is selling "Buck Belue BBQ Ribs, smothered with Herschel Hot Sauce'' and "Junkyard Dawg Chili.''  For dessert, Georgia fans can order "Sugar Falling from the Sky Peach Bread Pudding.''  

The biggest parties will be saved for New Year's Eve, but in the French Quarter it is never too early to celebrate.  Fans were wearing the traditional bead necklaces always found in the French Quarter, but Mena said long, feathery boas are this year's new must-have accessory.  

"I'm selling a lot of boas,'' Mena said, pointing to a display near the front of his store.  Added Mena: "Especially the red and black boas.''

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