The biggest sports week of the year in Louisiana — north of Baton Rouge – starts today as activities begin with the arrival of football teams from Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette for the 46th Annual Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl.
A weeklong series of events culminates Friday with the 2 p.m. kickoff at Independence Stadium between the Cougars (7-5) and Ragin’ Cajuns (6-6). Nearly all of the fun is free and open to the public.
Team arrivals: ULL finishes a three-hour bus ride up I-49 and pulls into Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino at 4 p.m., then Houston checks in a half-hour later a couple blocks west at the Hilton Shreveport/Convention Center.
Player Welcome Party: NOT a public event, because it’s mostly a feast for the Cougars and Cajuns. The menu includes whole smoked hogs, bacon-wrapped alligator, jambalaya, Louisiana Gulf shrimp and king cake. Players will also compete in the first two competitions (ping pong and Madden tournaments) to help determine which team wins the Bowl Week Belt.
The Big Game Show: Free and open to the public, beginning at 6:30 at the Riverview Theatre (600 Clyde Fant Memorial Parkway), the team competition features segments modeled after game shows like Family Feud and Jeopardy. The Bowl Week Belt will be awarded at the end of the evening.
Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast: The annual event at the Shreveport Convention Center (400 Caddo St.) is open to the public at a $10 cost. Tickets can be obtained in advance through the bowl website (radiancetechnologiesindependencebowl.com/fan-events) or by calling the bowl office at 318-221-0712. It is hosted by the Northwest Louisiana FCA chapter.
Community service: Both teams will make hour-long visits to Holy Angels facility, which is operated by an independent non-profit organization supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Mardi Gras Preview Parade: The 6:30 parade at the Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets (540 Boardwalk Blvd., Bossier City) kicks off the free Rally on the Red. Floats from local Mardi Gras krewes and bands and spirit groups from both teams will wind through the Boardwalk and the East Bank District.
Battle of the Bands: At approximately 7:15 on the East Bank Plaza (600 Barksdale Blvd., Bossier City), the bands and pep squads will put on a show as they compete to win the contest, open and free to all.
Parish County Line Concert: A free concert from 8-10 p.m. at Hurricane Alley (515 Barksdale Blvd., Bossier City) in the East Bank District Plaza, located behind Beauxjax Crafthouse and Frozen Pirogue. Parish County Line is one of south Louisiana’s hottest show bands.
Coca-Cola Fan Fest: Beginning at 10 a.m. inside the northwest entrance of Independence Stadium (Gate 4), this event is free to the public. It will feature ESPN Tailgate Tour tens, DJ Jay Whatley, inflatables for children, and local food and drink options available for purchase.
The game: Kickoff is 2 p.m. inside Independence Bowl Stadium. Tickets are available through the bowl website or by calling the bowl office at 318-221-0712.