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Saints caravan swings through Mississippi

By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
June 19, 2003
NEW ORLEANS Despite having a trio of New Orleans Saints starters from their immediate area and being in closer proximity to New Orleans than nearly half of their stated target market cities, Saints fans in the Meridian/Philadelphia area will have to drive to either Jackson or Hattiesburg if they wish to meet the team's 2003 Eastern Regional Caravan that will tour the state on June 23.
The team, along with several members of the Saintsations dance team will be in Hattiesburg Monday on the second leg of their Day One tour itinerary, which includes Mississippi.
Coach Jim Haslett, general manager Mickey Loomis and Pro Bowlers Deuce McAllister, Michael Lewis and Fred McAfee will be at the Northpark Mall on East County Line road in Jackson at 11:30 a.m. and at O'Charley's restaurant on Hardy Street in Hattiesburg from 3-4:15 pm.
The Saints held a similar Western Regional Caravan from May 14-16.
McAllister hails from Morton in nearby Scott County and McAfee is a Philadelphia native. Starting defensive tackle Kenny Smith is a former Meridian High standout. They are just three of eight current Saints players with ties to the state.
The Magnolia State portion of the ERC this year will stop in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Biloxi and Pascagoula. They will also visit coastal Alabama, including Mobile and Point Clear in Baldwin County.
This year will be the first time the Saints have taken a caravan to Pascagoula and Baldwin County, Ala. The Jackson County stop will feature a private military event aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown. "It's just one way we want to try and give back to our military in light of the events of the past year," Boyce said.
The Caravan itself has undergone changes this summer.
In the past, Saints Director of Regional Marketing, Mike Feder has been a fixture on the tour. But Feder stepped down from that position last spring to take an integral role in Tom Benson's New Orleans Voodoo, a new arena football team.
For those unfamiliar with the yearly visit, each tour stop will feature an autograph session, an overview of the 2003 season, and a question and answer session. Drawings will be held for team merchandise and information on season and group tickets for the upcoming season will also be available.
Danielle Boyce, who took over for Feder in April, is leading the Regional Caravans.
When asked if Meridian is in fact one of the Saints' target market towns, Boyce replied succinctly. "Yes."
The reality of this area being a viable Saints market is very real, especially when one considers Meridian (a 195-mile distance from New Orleans) is closer in proximity and more rapidly accessible to the Superdome to out of town fans than many of the communities being targeted by the Saints.
Couple that with Smith, McAfee and McAllister's ties and the fact that neighboring Philadelphia is rapidly becoming a booming golf, gaming and recreational resort mecca, as well as its Manning family ties, translates this into a hotbed for Black and Gold Fans. Given all that, it should not surprise area fans to see the caravan roll into the Queen City next summer.
The team did not raise season ticket prices for the upcoming season. To purchase season tickets, call the team facility at (504) 731-1700, the Superdome ticket office, through Ticketmaster at 800-877-0898, or log on to www.neworleanssaints.com and www.ticketmaster.com.

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