I never anticipated my childhood dream of playing in the Pride of Wildcat Land Marching Band would come true, let alone did I imagine it would come with the most incredible opportunities. My sophomore year in the Pride exceeded all expectations — not only did we celebrate a win at the Big 12 Championship, we also attended a New Year’s Six bowl game. The thrilling season of Kansas State football was exciting for the band, students and fans alike.
Upon our nighttime arrival, we began to explore. My four years of French class inspired me to head straight to Café du Monde, which is a historic French café. New Orleans culture is a lively blend of Spanish, French and African American influence. Walking Decatur Street on my way to the café, I felt as though I entered a different country. Horse-drawn carriages led tourists around Jackson Square, which was a nice contrast from the jazzy nightlife in the French Quarter.
Watching the scene that is Café du Monde come into view felt like seeing a movie everyone’s been raving about. The swelling sound of bongo drums filled our ears as we turned the corner to the café to see a drummer playing for anyone eating or passing by. The bustling of people added to the feeling of warmth in the café as customers bit into their beignets. Sincere conversations spilled over from powdered-sugar-covered mouths at every table.
After a sweet taste of New Orleans, we took a streetcar back for the night. A group of kids from Kansas must be recognizable in a city such as this one — our driver let us on for no charge, saying he was rooting for us in the Sugar Bowl. K-State kindness truly reaches beyond the Kansas border.
Several recommendations brought us to Mother’s — an authentic New Orleans restaurant home to the world’s best baked ham, delicious gumbo and everything Creole in between. The history is showcased on the walls in photographs and newspaper scraps.
Our experience of the city was enriched by band rehearsal in Caesars Superdome. We had the unique opportunity to watch Alabama’s Million Dollar Band practice their pregame and halftime shows. It motivated us to put on an amazing last performance of our show: Les Misérables.
As game day excitement built, we led the Mardi Gras styled Sugar Bowl parade through the French Quarter. It was surreal to be cheered on by a sea of purple 963 miles from Manhattan and even more gratifying to glance into the crowd as we played Wabash Cannonball. To be recognized and revered as the Pride of Wildcat Land in New Orleans was indescribable.
GALLERY: Sugar Bowl Parade 2022
Rushing through the stands, down a small staircase and onto a football field feels thrilling and new every single game. From the ground, all of the Superdome walls appeared identical. It was easy to feel swallowed by the scale. The amount of people I saw looking back at me was breathtaking. Huddled on the sidelines, the only thing standing between us and charging the field was a few drawn out minutes of the first half. Restlessness left my body as soon as we were told it was time. It is always exciting to put on our Les Misérables show, but the electric atmosphere and pure adrenaline lended to our most passionate performance. While the steps I marched may fade from my memory, the emotional impact will always remain.
Before leaving the city, we walked down Bourbon Street to immerse ourselves in New Year’s Eve traditions. Entering Bourbon gave me a new perspective of the city. Almost every establishment we passed had balconies overflowing with people throwing beads down to anyone looking up. Jazz music poured out of the bars and onto the street. The liveliness lived up to the reputation of New Orleans festivals.
We ended our trip standing among tens of thousands of people along the Mississippi River. In the near distance, there was a firework show out on a boat in the river. There is no better way to ring in the year than gathering with members of the Pride on a trip we will always cherish.
Editor’s note: In the print and original online edition of this article, the Pride of Wildcat Land was incorrectly spelled as “the Pride of Wildcatland.” Additionally, Les Misérables was spelled without its accent. Both errors have been fixed for the current online edition.