SEATTLE — Amid the 700,000 fans who jammed downtown Seattle to celebrate the city's first Super Bowl win stood Mark Formanczyk, 57-year-old man in a Seahawks jersey and a camouflage jacket, weeping in the parking lot outside the team's stadium.
“I'm crying! I'm crying ... and I love it!” he said, pulling off his sunglasses to show the tears. “I believed in Seattle years ago when I first moved here, and they finally came through. They brought this city alive!”
Bundled in blue-and-green Seahawks gear — hats, shirts, jackets, stickers and wigs — the fans packed the sidewalks and streets along a 2-mile parade route, standing shoulder to shoulder on a freezing, clear day for a community catharsis after 35 years without a major sports title.
They roared and chanted as the team rolled by on amphibious “Ride the Ducks” vehicles usually reserved for tourists. 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”³ flags in honor of the 12th man, the fans.
“This is a historical event, once in a lifetime. To not show up would be blasphemy,” said Jesse Lake, 36, a carpenter from Port Orchard, who stood in the packed parking lot outside CenturyLink Field to greet the team as they arrived.
Nearby, 23-year-old cook Jesse Rea, of Edmonds, watched highlights of the season on two massive screens, then bellowed loud cheers for the players as they were introduced to the crowd inside the stadium.
“It's overwhelming to see how much the city is supporting this,” he said. “Finally we are able to see how much love and respect we have. What the 12th man means to me — they made me feel as much a part of this team as the players.”
Thousands of students skipped school to attend. Seattle Public Schools said more than 25 percent of the district's 51,000 students were absent in the morning. By comparison, about 5 percent were absent the day before. The school district also said 565 teachers were absent, far more than usual.
Dakota Heaphy, 20, 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.
The Seahawks' 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos Sunday gave Seattle its first major men's sports championship since the SuperSonics won the NBA title in 1979.
Along the parade route, which ended at CenturyLink Field, the Washington National Guard chauffeured some players in Humvees. Elected officials rode along, too.
Boisterous fans observed a “moment of loudness” at 12:12 p.m. Crowds also gathered in Spokane, Olympia and elsewhere in the state to celebrate.
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, 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.
At a ceremony inside the stadium following the parade, the team thanked its loyal followers.
Players were introduced by the order of their jersey numbers and ended with No. 3, quarterback Russell Wilson, who walked onto the field pumping the Lombardi Trophy in the air to thunderous applause.
“Our plan is to win another one for you next year,” Wilson said later.