SEATTLE (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of notoriously loud Seahawks fans cranked up the volume Wednesday, cheering, chanting and going berserk during a parade to celebrate the first Super Bowl victory in the history of the franchise.
The mood in downtown Seattle was electrified as the parade featuring the NFL champions began near the Space Needle and slowly made its way to CenturyLink Field, the home of the team.
Police estimated about 700,000 people — more than the population of the city — attended what might have been the largest gathering in Seattle history.
Shawn Cooper and Marlana Studebaker of Covington staked out a spot hours before the parade started and displayed supersized photo cutouts of quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman, prompting many fans to stop and take photos.
“This was a long-awaited win. It’s well worth the wait,” Cooper said. “They’re years ahead of their time which makes me believe there’s another one coming.”
Dakota Heaphy, 20, who called himself a lifelong Seahawks fan, and friend Ellie Hergert, 20, drove all night from Cheyenne, Wyo. — more than 1,400 miles away.
“My boss is a Broncos fan and said we kicked their butts and deserved to go,” Hergert said.
Revelers packed the 2-mile route and greeted the team at CenturyLink Field and nearby Safeco Field. They wore blue and green wigs, waved flags, scarves and signs, and erupted into song and dance.
The Washington National Guard chauffeured many of the players in Humvees and other military vehicles under blue, sunny skies in cold temperatures. Elected officials rode along in amphibious vehicles used to take tourists around the city.
Players enjoyed the celebration as much as the fans.
Running back Marshawn Lynch sat on the hood of a vehicle carrying the Sea Gals cheerleaders. He tossed Skittles — his favorite treat — into the crowd.
Other Seahawks players threw jerseys and T-shirts to fans while waving blue “12” flags as a sign of gratitude to the loyal fans, known as the team’s 12th man.
Boisterous fans observed a “moment of loudness” at 12:12 p.m. Crowds also gathered in Spokane and Olympia to celebrate the first championship in the 38-year history of the franchise.
Many fans had camped out overnight to reserve front-row seats along the route, braving freezing temperatures. Others perched on window sills and balconies, climbed trees and pillars, or sat on sturdier shoulders to get a better view.
At Westlake Center in the middle of the route, smartphones and cameras were thrust into the air whenever players rolled by.
Seattle city officials asked the public to keep cellphone use to a minimum to keep lines free for emergency use. There were some reported difficulties with 911 calls getting through, said Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the mayor.
Chris Hoops, a sales worker from Everett, leaned against a pillar with two of his school-aged daughters looking cold as they bundled in sleeping bags at his feet.
The family left home at 7 a.m. to get a good spot for the parade. The girls, 11-year-old Emily and 8-year-old Bella, warmed up when they were asked whether they were sorry about missing school. They shouted “No” in unison.
“I like the Seahawks,” Emily said. “They were really good this season.”
Bubba Lezard, 28, of Enumclaw said his tribe, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, gave everyone the day off in honor of the Super Bowl champions. He, his wife and 6-month old baby traveled 1 1/2 hours into Seattle for what he called a once in a lifetime experience.
Paul Szabo of Shoreline also pulled his two kids out if school to attend the parade.
“I think the teachers are probably jealous,” he said. “If I was them I would have canceled school.”