The Krewe did a fantastic job of getting the hype started online with their daily posts and tweets leading up to GGV. From the first moment we landed in NOLA from Madison WI to attend our first Gooner Gras, we knew something special was on the horizon. We had heard the tales of Gooner Gras’ past fondly retold by our Arsenal America family during the 2016 preseason tour in California and more recent trips to Austin and Chicago. Past attendees’ reminiscence definitely gave the mind’s eye an electric portrayal of the gathering, but nothing prepared the soul for all the smiles, hugs, high fives, and most impressively the LOVE from old and new friends coming from all across the country to gather and to celebrate The Arsenal.
When I stumbled upon a sport that I hadn’t really followed before and fell in love with a team in red with the most bada$$ name I could think of, I had no idea what the future would hold for me. I had no idea how much this football club would come to mean to me. In the last 14 years, I’ve felt the highest highs and the lowest lows following The Arsenal over land and sea. In the beginning, my journey was solitary and until I moved from North Carolina to New York, I did not have a real-life community to share my passion with, though I began to develop an online community on Twitter in early 2009 which has granted me many connections that I’ll be forever grateful for. Following last weekend’s trip to New Orleans for Gooner Gras V, I’m astonished at how full my life is because of this football club in the north of London and the family that they have provided me with.
The last time I was in NOLA was for my birthday in 2014, and I went to Finn’s for the match that we won 4-1 overSunderland! It was also the same day that the Dennis Bergkamp statue was unveiled at the Emirates. I met Fredo after knowing him virtually from Twitter for a couple of years, and I met Omar and a few others that day as well. The Krewe of Arsenal was so welcoming even then, and I’m glad to see that their hospitality is still top, top, top, top quality. I was not able to make it last year, as I had 2 big trips lined up to eat up my vacation time and my funds, but I promised Fredo that I would attend this year’s soiree. And so I did.
The Gooner Gals group has been so fantastic for me, and without giving away secrets of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Gooners, I can just say that it’s the only sorority of a sort that I’ve ever wanted to belong to. Tiffany Campo, you da real MVP!!! It was through this group that I found my roommate and partner in crime, Danita aka Momma Jup. I was the sole gooner from Arsenal NYC attending, and she was likewise the only rep from Atlanta Gooners. I can’t help but feel it may have been written in the stars to have one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met as my comrade for the weekend. I’m a bit more reserved by nature and not as apt to go up to people I don’t know and strike up a conversation, and most of the connections that I did make were through Momma Jup and her magnetic pull to everyone. From the time that we arrived on Thursday evening, we made an unspoken pact that we were in it together, and we were.
We showed up to Jackson Square and the cannon on Friday and ended up on Arsenal Fan TV with Robbie, which was unexpected, but also very cool. Thanks to Robbie, Troopz, and Tao for documenting this weekend as my memory is patchy at best even now. After that we scooted to my favorite watering hole, The Chart Room, and ended up drinking much of the day away while posting up dollar bills with special messages on them to commemorate our time there. From there we made our way to Bourbon Cowboy where Tao and Robbie took turns on the bull, and then we made our way to grab some food before the brewery on Friday night. It was a lot of fun to see the royal court named, and congrats to Boston George, Christine, Steve and Michael on your titles! Momma Jup and many others broke it down to the live brass band, I found myself still a little shy (I was cured of this the next day) and preferred to spend more time talking and watching, but really enjoyed the festivities.
Saturday was pretty gross out, but I knew that wouldn’t stop the party. Celeste took care of us on the bus both Friday and Saturday, and what a star she is…. Celeste is a gooner! The bus ride reminded me of a very loud, but short, road trip singalong featuring nothing but the finest Gooner songs. From the karaoke to the crawfish and the Abita, the block party lacked absolutely nothing in terms of letting the good times roll. Everyone from the Finn’s staff to the SwagCom went above and beyond to make this a fabulous day, weather and lack of Arsenal match notwithstanding. However, I don’t know that any zenith could be reached without the Saturday night party at B.B. Kings with the
Krewe de Vieux parade and the live band and bar. We rocked the top floor and left no doubt that we take reveling to another level. While some others stepped out to other spots, a smaller group of us refused to let the party end there. The B.B. King All-Star band played a set just for us, with songs about Giroud (we’ll miss you, Oli) and Xhaka and quite a few Prince songs that kept everybody moving, with Boston George guesting on vocals and everyone backing them up. We may be a bunch of hooligans, but we’ve got rhythm and soul.
Sunday was a chill day, and after Saturday, Momma Jup and I needed that. We joined up with Christina from Milwaukee and Erich from Chicago to visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 via the St. Charles trolley car. Slightly hungover and a bit sore, we ambled along with Arthur Smith from Save Our Cemeteries (they’re a non-profit tour group trying to preserve the cemeteries) and got a history lesson about New Orleans, not just about death, but about the lives that were led there since the city was founded 300 years ago. After that we made our way back to the Quarter for a late lunch and then it was time for the Paddleboat cruise, which was a great way to cap off an awesome weekend, while also cooling things down a bit. Afterwards, Momma Jup and I then made our way back to Jackson Square and Café du Monde for some beignets, hot chocolate and a last stop at the cannon. After that, we made our way back to the hotel and started packing up for our flights on Monday. Momma Jup had a 7:00a flight and though mine was later, I wanted to be ready to go in the morning for my later flight. When I left for the airport on Monday, I was exhausted and yet revitalized spiritually because my heart was full and because I let my real life trials and tribulations melt away for 4 days of fun with some of the coolest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve spent this week at work trying to recover and am only now getting my voice back, but it was worth every second of twisting, shouting, singing and drinking that I did during Gooner Gras V.
Thank you to the Krewe of Arsenal, the SwagCom, the staff at every venue that we rocked, the Gooner Gals especially (#YearoftheGal is truly upon us), and every Gooner that I met while I was there. Each and every one of you gave me something, even if it wasn’t a badge, or a sticker, or t-shirt, you gave me joy and laughter. See you all next year, and I’ll be ready to return the favor! COYG!