The inaugural Saints Hall of Fame weekend in Biloxi was a clear success.
The weekend included four events, starting with a golf tournament at Senior PGA course Fallen Oak in Saucier on Friday afternoon.
While the event was cut short by a thunderstorm, 23 former New Orleans Saints players were on hand to enjoy the festivities, along with a full flight of paying foursomes.
Among those participating were Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Jackson, along with fellow Saints Hall of Fame inductees Morten Andersen, Jim Dombowski, Dalton Hilliard, Tyrone Hughes, Vaughan Johnson, Michael Lewis, Deuce McAllister and Jim Wilks.
Additional Saints alumni on hand included Steve Baumgartner, Chuck Commiskey, John Fourcade, John Gilliam, Jack Holmes, Steve Korte, Tyrone Legette, Mike McKenzie, Mel Mitchell, Maurice Spencer, Mike Strachan, Fred Thomas and Emanuel Zanders.
All Saints alumni were invited to and attended the Double-A baseball game pitting the Biloxi Shuckers against the Jacksonville Sun Friday night. Saints Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Hebert and Jackson threw out first pitches, while Andersen elected to kick the first pitch with Hebert holding. Andersen calmly kicked a baseball for a strike in a humorous moment.
On Saturday morning, New Orleans Saints Director of Youth Programs Jason Trosclair and his staff brought the Saints Experience to MGM Park for a morning event, which included two sessions with approximately 600 youngsters participating on the field in various aspects of the Experience, which includes obstacle courses, throwing, catching and much more.
The weekend concluded Saturday night with the Saints Hall of Fame Road Show with the New Orleans Saints alumni signing autographs and taking pictures at MGM Park with approximately 1,400 in attendance.
The Saints Hall of Fame had many video and artifact exhibits, courtesy of Exhibit Designer Gordon Linge, along with pictures from Saints photographer Michael Hebert, including team pictures of all 49 New Orleans Saints teams in franchise history.
Fans took pictures with the Lombardi Trophy and rings from the Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV championship, courtesy of Saints Administrative Director Jay Romig and former long-time New Orleans Saints employee Barra Birrcher. A silent auction of 18 Saints items was a success and members of the Saintsations were on hand for pictures as well.
The City of Biloxi sponsored the event and split proceeds with the non-profit Saints Hall of Fame Museum, located at Gate B on the Plaza Level of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The museum is under construction, a significant renovation in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the franchise, which will be finished in time for the 2016 preseason.
Biloxi City Innovation and Development Officer Cliff Kirkland, a former Chief Administrative Officer for the city and the former Sports Editor of the Sun Herald covered the Saints while in the sports journalism business.
“Being around the Saints for a significant period of time gave me a clear picture of how popular the team is, especially here on the coast,” Kirkland said. “We have been wanting to bring a Saints presence back here for quite some time and this was a great vehicle to do so. We were very pleased with the results for our first effort and look to grow and enhance it next year.”
Biloxi Mayor Andrew “Fo Fo” Gilich, a native of Biloxi, participated in the golf event and attended the Road Show event.
“We continue to build our brand and expand our entertainment opportunities, particularly for families here on the coast,” Gilich said. “The New Orleans Saints are our team. They are wildly popular and it is great to have so many great players here.”