Local Ravens fans cheer from the stands at Super Bowl [Marriottsville/Sykesville/Woodstock]

This year's Super Bowl was an exciting, historical moment for Ravens fans, and while most watched the event in front of television screens, some individuals in our community got to witness the big win first hand.

Ron and Cyndi Gula, of Marriottsville, purchased a Super Bowl package through sportsevents.net. Their experience included a pregame party at House of Blues New Orleans, and Q&A sessions with former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli. A jazz band then escorted them the half mile from House of Blues to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Like others, the Gulas' journey to New Orleans was a circuitous one — their Baltimore-based flight Feb. 2 took them through Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C., before finally arriving in Gulfport, La. They then drove a rental car 75 miles from Gulfport to a Holiday Inn near Bourbon Street.

Meanwhile, Sykesville residents Ike and Charlotte Savoy, who are friends with the Gulas, struggled to find tickets and a hotel. They ended up flying into Jackson, Miss., on Friday, Feb. 1, and then drove the three hours to New Orleans.

Their original intention was to rent an RV for the duration of their stay, but they ended up scoring a last-minute cancellation at a Motel 6 near the French Quarter. Even those modest accommodations cost six times the normal rate because of excessive demand.

Ron described a palpable pregame excitement — fans on both sides expected a close matchup. However, "That evaporated right at game time," he said, "and you could feel the disappointment from the 49ers fans" as the Ravens took a quick lead. He felt that the majority of the people in the stadium were 49ers fans.

Charlotte, on the other hand, said, "We saw more purple than red." She acknowledged that "fans on both sides were gracious and proud of their teams," and Ron concurred, mentioning how well-behaved fans were during the bizarre power outage at the stadium.

The lengthy delay seemed to rob the Ravens of their momentum. How did the Ravens prevail?

Charlotte knows the answer. "The Ravens fans willed their team to win and that was incredibly evident all weekend long. Ravens love being the underdogs, and it shows!"

Afterward, the Gulas were able to move to the first row of the stadium to watch the trophy presentation, and then they left to do some quick shopping before their 3 a.m. flight home. The Savoys did not leave until noon on Monday, so they remained in the stadium for two hours and celebrated with the team before heading out for a late dinner.

Fan support certainly did not stop at the stadium, and devotees continued to show the love at the Ravens welcome home parade on Feb. 5. Check out this column next week for firsthand accounts from some locals who attended the parade.

Spring is nearing, which means that the soil will soon be ready for cool-season vegetable crops. Come learn more on Saturday, Feb. 23, when the Howard County Master Gardeners offer a series of vegetable gardening classes from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the University of Maryland Extension office, 3300 North Ridge Road, Suite 240, Ellicott City.

Kent Phillips will begin the program with the class "Starting Seeds under Florescent Lights," and then Gloria Lambert will teach "Vegetable Gardening for Beginners" at 11 a.m. Jerry Kissel will close out the program with a noon class called "Sustainable Organic Vegetable Gardening."

To register for any of the classes, call the University of Maryland Extension Howard County office at 410-313-2707.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church will hold its monthly community feast on Thursday, Feb. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. The cost is $9 per person or $30 maximum per family; kids 5 and under eat for free.

This month's proceeds will benefit a Columbia-based charity, Bridges to Housing Stability, which assists Howard County families who are homeless or are in danger of losing their housing. Go to bridges2hs.org to learn more.

The church is at 2892 Route 97, in Glenwood, and the phone number is 410-489-4035. For more details, email lynnequinn@comcast.net.

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