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Saints be praised! Team's success rubs off on New Orleans

By Chuck Johnston and John Zarrella, CNN
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New Orleans backing its Saints
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fresh off Grammy win, jazz musician and native son Irvin Mayfield back in New Orleans
  • Excitement is rampant in city that was bowed but not broken by Hurricane Katrina
  • Saints' success is good for business; stores reporting brisk sales
  • Police say the goodwill is even extending to city's usually high murder rate

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) -- Jazz musician Irvin Mayfield already enjoyed one super Sunday last week. A New Orleans native, Mayfield won the large jazz ensemble award at the Grammys in Los Angeles, California.

Just back from the West Coast, he's about to give his first performance inside his jazz club on Bourbon Street since winning the Grammy Where else would you expect him just days before the Saints' Super Bowl showdown with the Indianapolis Colts but in his home city?

He's not only watching the team's rebirth, but also in large part, he's witnessing the city's rebirth before a national spotlight.

He equates the long and difficult process of the healing and rebuilding of the city to the music he loves.

"Jazz music was born out of funerals. We understand the yin and the yang, but we know how to celebrate for the entire process," Mayfield says.

And celebrating is what the city is doing. Across the city, people are energized with the momentum of the Saints. In the city's Garden District, businesses are seeing excitement first-hand.

On Magazine Street, Blue Frog Chocolates can't keep the Saints chocolates on the shelves.

It's been a real big pick-me-up for the city.
--Chocolate maker Jeannine Flores on Super Bowl game
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They've made special milk chocolate fleur de lis for the occasion. Jeannine Flores, a chocolate maker, at the store says the feeling in New Orleans right now is uplifting.

"It's been a real big pick-me-up for the city. Doesn't matter who you talk to. You talk to complete strangers in the grocery store, and they say, 'Yeah Saints!' "

And across the street, the same sentiment is shared at Blake Haney's T-shirt shop.

His Saints T-shirts are flying off the shelves with all of the excitement. His best seller is a shirt that shows the Louisiana Superdome in black and gold with the word "Church" on the dome, and the words, "Put on Your Sunday Best" below.

"That's one of our most popular T-shirts, because it's really true. People on Sunday do treat going to the Superdome as a religious experience."

He says the national media is back in town, and it's not just to cover the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

"There's still rebuilding, there's a lot of need for work in the city. There are still a lot of neighborhoods that are hurting. The national spotlight has been on us every week, through most of last year, and with the Super Bowl it's amazing attention that we need."

One of the neighborhoods still rebuilding is the Gentilly neighborhood.

"In this particular area, there were eight feet of water that came into homes and businesses. And as you can see, some folks have come back and some folks are still coming back," Marlon Defillo, the assistant superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, said.

He grew up in the neighborhood and is certainly glad to see its rebirth. But he understands the process is taking time.

He says that people are coming back and so is commercial property. He shows a property on Paris Avenue -- still with the scars of Katrina -- that's being purchased and going through the permitting process.

Defillo not only cheers for the city's success but much like Mayfield, for the Saints' success as well. And despite the extra celebrating, Defillo says the city has been well-behaved.

"We have not seen a lot of violence. We don't see a lot of violence occurring when the Saints are playing." Defillo says the city has not recorded a homicide since January 15.

Back at the jazz club on Bourbon Street, Mayfield says his city is the very definition of American resilience.

"New Orleans is such a thoroughly authentic American city, and the American story is always triumph over tragedy. It's the story of the blues."

 
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