Thousands take Thanksgiving break to enjoy bands, cheer squads and floats
By TIERRA SMITH
Grambling State University Media Bureau
New Orleans, La. – As colorful beads flew from floats, Grambling State University and Southern University bands marched through downtown New Orleans with soulful music and moves. Parade watchers gathered closely together to shield the chilly wind on street corners and along the curbs to watch the annual Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Parade.
“We just arrived into New Orleans and we are going straight to the parade,” said Travis Matthews, a Houston mass communications major at Grambling State and a part of the Tiger cheerleading squad. “The weather is a major difference between the other three Bayou Classics I have been in.”
The annual parade drew thousands just two days before the two universities play the Bayou Classic football game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Another GSU cheerleader was excited to be home for the classic and the holidays. “I love being here in my home city,” said Ceairra Price, 19, a sophomore biology major from New Orleans.
The parade included the World Famed Tiger Marching Band of Grambling State and the Human Jukebox of Southern as well as several local high school bands, alumni groups, cheerleaders, dance companies, steppers and radio and television personalities.
The streets were lined with competitive alums as they showed off their school pride with their university appeal and colors. For one Grambling alum, she has been attending Bayou Classic festivities for as long as she can remember.
“I have been attending Bayou Classic since I was in my mothers’ womb,” said Harmona Epps, a former flute player. “Grambling sounded awesome like always.”
Epps was with her mother, Beverly Wilson-Epps, and her sister, Hashawn Epps, each dressed from top to bottom in Grambling attire. Hashawn Epps, who played trumpet in the GSU marching band, even wore black and gold GSU shoes.
Lisa Allston drove from Monroe and skipped the dressing, marconi and cheese and turkey to find a good seat along the parade route.
“We didn’t have Thanksgiving dinner yet,” said Allston, 57, a GSU 1981 graduate. “We grabbed some snacks and kept driving. Everyone is excited and we have some more family coming from California and Florida.”
Some parade-goers had no connection to Grambling State or Southern, but they heard the music from restaurants and hotels and wanted to join the fun and excitement.
Dunia Juan, a 14-year-old from Spain, she said that she never experienced anything like it, especially the music and marching styles of the historically black universities. Juan, a ninth grader at Queens Metro High School in New York, was visiting New Orleans with her family. Meeting the GSU Tiger mascot was one of her favorite moments.
Although from the New Orleans area, DeAndre Degruy didn’t understand the intensity of the rivalry until seeing the GSU and SU fans face off at the parade. “It’s a real beef thing between Grambling and Southern,” said Degruy, 18, a freshman studying education at the University of New Orleans. “Grambling killed it. Southern was whack and dry.”
“I am excited to see the students’ spirits up despite the record of the football team,” said Larry Pannell, the GSU band director. “We may do a major upset this weekend; you can throw the record out the door.”
“This is a whole different series now,” said Edwin Thomas, the GSU percussion and drum line band director. “We don’t look at records. It comes down to one game. It’s like the Super Bowl to us. This would truly make our season, if we go ahead and upset Southern University. I like the direction the university is moving despite our shortcoming.”
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The Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Parade is just one of the many events during the classic. On Friday, the universities’ bands and Greeks will compete for this year’ bragging rights at the Bayou Classic Battle of the Bands and Greek Step Show at 6 p.m. The big event, the Tigers and the Jaguars facing off in the annual football game, start at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised nationally on NBC. See www.mybayouclassic.com for more information.