Many 49ers and Ravens fans are flocking to South Mississippi before they head over to the Big Easy to catch the Super Bowl. Coast tourism leaders want them to keep coming back. When a charter flight from Baltimore landed at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport Friday, the Ravens fans received a generous dose of southern hospitality.
Lively tunes from the Gulfport High Jazz Band "G-Blues" announced the passengers' arrival.
"We're from Baltimore. Go Ravens!" one fan shouted.
"Niners are going down!" shouted another fan.
"It is a complete surprise. We're here to inundate them with Mardi Gras beads and king cakes," said Crystal Johnson, Sales Director for the Harrison County Tourism Commission.
One-hundred-thirty-seven Ravens fans stepped off a charter flight from Baltimore and into a sea of southern hospitality.
"Incredible welcome. I mean, how can you go wrong with king cake, beads, and live local music?" asked Ravens fan Kevin Shea.
The Baltimore guests seemed impressed with the sweet gesture.
"What is it?" asked Pam Koffel, as she held up her mini king cake. "Oh, I've heard of king cakes. I'm looking forward to it."
The airport and tourism staff also handed out goody bags filled with Mississippi Coast souvenirs and shopping and dining guides.
"We want them to take advantage of the area here, see our many amenities and offerings, and having a good time while they're in the region," said Airport Executive Director Clay Williams.
"It's wonderful!" exclaimed Koffel. "We're really looking forward to exploring the coast."
"We've heard a lot about Biloxi and the casinos and so on, so we look forward to it," said Ravens fan Arthur Alperstein.
And that's exactly the kind of impression tourism leaders want to leave.
"Very warm. We appreciate it very much. Thank you, Mississippi," said Ravens fan Quin Shea.
"It's a very exciting time. We're thrilled that New Orleans is hosting the Super Bowl. Anytime that they have a large scale event like this, the South Mississippi economy benefits," said Williams.
Many football fans will be departing on Monday. Williams said Delta will be bringing in two larger jets, and United Airlines will add a flight to handle the extra passenger load.
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