Bayou Classic week kicks off with high expectations

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Southern and Grambling facing off on the football field is an annual event the city cannot wait to host Thanksgiving week.

"Are you ready for some football?" said Grambling State University President Willie Larkin.

On Saturday, the 42nd Annual Bayou Classic pits GSU against Southern University. It's a longstanding football rivalry steeped in fun for fans.

"An opportunity for two great institutions who are in my view really contributing mightily to the economic success of the state of Louisiana, two great institutions coming together for what many continue to be an annual rivalry," said Southern University President Ray Belton.

And extreme fun is always a part of the game plan, in terms of fans of the two teams. The city will have more than 200,000 visitors who will fill hotels and restaurants.

"It means millions of dollars of economic impact to our city, and that manifests itself in the lives of the more than 80,000 people who work very, very hard in our industry," said Cheryl Teamer with of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"I don't think there's anything that can rival what we do in New Orleans, and I think we can do more," Larkin said.

And for visitors staying downtown there is ample retail outlets.

"All that stuff is coming together to create a new and a better Canal Street, but all through downtown, if you go over to South Market District there is new retail over there around Girod and Baronne Street and O'keefe, all through downtown there's a growing retail offerings," said Kurt Weigle of the Downtown Development District

Still, the Bayou Classic activities are kicking off as the city of New Olreans is making national headlines over its violent crime problem.

"I think we as a community need to continue to come together around that issue to protect our families and our friends and families throughout this entire city. And I think in terms of tourists, I think we're going to be okay. Downtown continues to be an incredibly safe part of the city, as safe as any downtown in America as a matter of fact, and I think people know that and they're going to respond to that," Weigle said.

Ticket sales so far are already higher than the last year's.

Copyright 2015 WVUE. All rights reserved.