Every year right around the Thanksgiving Holiday a very special kind of atmosphere surfaces in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 44th Annual Bayou Classic is arguably the most popular of all the HBCU Football Classics that happens every year at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The face-off between in-state rivals Grambling State University and Southern University, Baton Rouge is as old and competitive than any other match-up in Black College football. Although the Bayou Classic is primarily about the football teams, the bands and their halftime battle is a huge draw for fans and Alumni who come from all over for big fun in the Big Easy.

Radio personality, DJ Envy from the nationally syndicated “The Breakfast Club” morning show has been spinning at HBCU classics for years, and he says he hasn’t gone to a single game and had a bad time.

As an HBCU grad from Hampton University ( the real HU according to him), Envy loves the atmosphere that comes along with HBCU rivalries and the communities overall.

“It’s the camaraderie and connections you’ll have forever,” he says, “I’ll have a Hampton sweatshirt on when I board a plane and someone will say something, no matter which HBCU they went to. It’s kind of like a secret society.”

Just outside of the regularly scheduled events lies a ton of “N’awlins” culture to immerse yourself in. From art studios to local cafes and even yoga classes, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Check out these suggestions to craft your winning game plan for the Bayou Classic this year.

The Greek Step Show

One of the biggest things to catch this weekend is the Bayou Classic Greek Step Show. On Friday night, all of the fraternities and sororities will join together to show up and show out. If you’re a Devastating Diva, a Pretty Girl, a Pretty Boy, a Nasty Dog or member of any of the Divine Nine greek-letter organizations then you know it’s about to go down. And if you're a non-affiliated fan, you don’t want to miss all the hard stomping, hand clapping excitement of a black greek step show.

The Battle of the Bands

There would be no Bayou Classic without the Battle of the Bands. You’ve got two titan bands in the Human Jukebox Marching Band (Southern) and the World Famed Tiger Marching Band (Grambling) drumline to drumline, tuba to tuba, showcasing their phenomenal musical and athletic talent for all the bragging rights. It doesn’t get any more serious than this, hold on your seats because this battle will simply blow you away!

The Gameday Parade

Photo: NewsOrleansLocal.com

New Orleans is known for their parades. The pageantry, the colors, the music, the energy; no one does it better than NOLA. On Saturday you can enjoy the parade to the game, which consists of a path from the French Market through the French Quarter and down Canal Street. Each university along with dozens of local high school and junior bands will march through the quarter all the way to the Superdome. Along the route, you’ll see when the parade crowd get bigger and bigger as people will literally join the formation from off the street. It’s an interactive experience so if you’re looking for a huge midday party the parade is where it's at. This style of parade is called “second line,” and it’s a New Orleans tradition typically hallmarked by brass bands playing their horns, umbrellas and scarves waving about and plenty of hype and fancy footwork as people get you ready for the game.

A Tailgate Like No Other

At the Bayou Classic, even the tailgating goes to the next level. The giant pre-game fan party happens in Champion’s Square, just outside of the Superdome and you can check it out with or without a game day ticket. It’s a come-one-come-all event with plenty of activities to mix and mingle including a special pre-game musical performance by the King of the South, T.I. courtesy of Coors Light and post-game celebration at Club XLIV featuring DJ Envy.

The tailgate is DJ Envy’s favorite part of every HBCU Classic he attends.

“You get to talk and meet people.,” he says, “We’ve been at Classics tailgating all over the South and I have to say, the only bad thing is that I’m gaining weight from all this good eating. Everybody’s cooking chicken, ribs, gumbo and everything is delicious. I love being among to the people. It doesn’t matter who’s playing, we’re all one big HBCU family.”

And when he spins for an HBCU event, he says it’s always a lot more fun.

“I say that because people like to party in college. You don’t have to worry about people going to the club to buy bottles and stand around trying to look nice, they are there to sweat, party and have a good time. They enjoy the music.”

And although Envy is from New York, he gives credit to his time at Hampton for expanding his musical knowledge. He had roommates from all over the South who exposed him to artists who at the time were not as popular in the Northeast. Now, he’s not a one-trick pony, he can DJ for everybody at any type of event.

“I’m so grateful that I went to a school that allowed me to experience music from all regions of the country,” he says, “So many DJs are pigeonholed to just their area but don’t know what’s outside of that. Having those friends and experiences really opened my mind up musically.”

Image courtesy of Coors Light

Local Masterpieces

If you’ve been to New Orleans before, you know how much art and culture lives in the city. If you’re looking for an incredibly inspiring environment to check out art and get a feel for the local perspective, check out Studio Be, a 35,000 sq ft warehouse and Brandan “B Mike” Odums first solo show as a visual artist. Check it out while you’re in town for installations that will move you and give you a true taste of New Orleans.

Photo: BrandanOdums.com

A Night Out in the French Quarter

After the game, the fun doesn’t have to end. There’s plenty of nightlife to explore on Frenchman street, which is full venues that have live bands and soulful music. If you’re looking for the turn up, you can check out the world famous (maybe even infamous) Bourbon street.

One of Envy’s favorite New Orleans spots is a restaurant called Peche.

“It’s a little bougie, but the food is amazing,” he says, “The food tastes fresh, like they just got it out of the ocean. I love going downtown and experiencing the shops and restaurants. The culture just feels fun.”

There’s so much going on this weekend at the Bayou Classic, so there really is something for everyone. Although the weekend is centered on the football rivalry, it’s really about the community that has been coming to celebrate these shining example of black excellence year after year.

As they say down in the Bayou, Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll!) and we’ll see you at the Classic.

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Coors Light.