Watch out, New York and New Jersey. Thursday night New Orleans showed how to throw a party as host city of the Super Bowl.
Tom and Gayle Benson, owners of the New Orleans Saints, hosted the owners of National Football League teams at City Park, transformed by event designer Bronson van Wyck.
Tom Benson said the party was a thank-you to the owners for selecting New Orleans as the 2013 host city, as well as a way to share the beauty and talent of New Orleans. He also had the future in mind.
“We hope it won’t be very long until the game is back here again, with our team on the field” he said.
Post-Katrina and the bounty scandal that had Saints coach Sean Payton suspended for the season, the pressure was on to knock people’s socks off. Trombone Shorty, the Louisiana Philharmonic and clarinetist Dr. Michael White helped do just that.
“This is an incredible time,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The thing about the NFL, we’re pretty competitive. The next two nights are the two nights when the owners do come together.” The commissioner hosted last night's dinner at Mardi Gras World.
The owners of the teams from next year’s host city --Steve Tisch and John Mara of the New York Giants and Woody Johnson of the New York Jets -- were among those who gathered at a grove of 60 live oaks behind the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The area was untamed until Jan. 17, when van Wyck began laying down an acre’s worth of plank floor. By dusk Thursday night, it felt like an enchanted woodland party, with flickering lanterns and huge balls of hydrangeas and red roses (matching Gayle Benson’s ruby necklace).
As Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue arrived, waiters served Sazeracs in and around what looked like old-fashioned striped circus tents. One was black and gold, the colors of the Saints.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, sat together at dinner. It was served in an enclosed tent with transparent ceiling and sisal carpeting, which was carefully laid down around one very old tree on the site.
Restaurateur and chef Susan Spicer’s menu: Louisiana oyster and artichoke soup, Covey Rise Farm roasted duck breast and a Doberge cake.
At dessert, a “second line” came in -- a jazz-band parade -- bringing guests including Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to their feet. Louisiana mayor Mitch Landrieu explained what to do: grab a white napkin and wave it in the air while dancing.
“The great thing is to see all the people here, they didn’t just come and leave, they stayed and enjoyed,” said Gayle Benson.
The Bensons first saw van Wyck’s work at a party thrown by Mercedes-Benz in Germany. Tom Benson owns Mercedes dealerships and the Saints’ arena of course is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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