By KRISTEN DE GROOT, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Tens of thousands of Eagles fans poured into Philadelphia Thursday morning, some before dawn, to take part in the city’s first-ever Super Bowl parade, celebrating a championship they’ve dreamed about and agonized over for decades.
Some camped out in cars and office buildings and even in tents to make sure they could witness the champs heading up Broad Street, the main thoroughfare between the team’s stadium and city hall that was already clogged with fans about four hours before the parade was scheduled to start.
As the sun rose, fans braved frigid wind chills in the low 20s to secure a prime viewing spot along the 5-mile (8-kilometer) parade route starting near the team’s stadium and ending at the art museum steps that Sylvester Stallone climbed in the “Rocky” movies.
Trains coming in from the suburbs were jammed and riders had to wait for multiple trains just to cram inside. Parking lots at suburban New Jersey rail stations were filled and closed hours before the 11 a.m. start of the parade.
For buddies John Thompson, Don Smith and Craig Moyer, coming to the parade was a “bucket list event.”
“We were wondering if we would ever see the Eagles win a Super Bowl in our lifetimes, and we may not ever see another one,” said Thompson, 56, of suburban Downingtown, as the trio exited a deli called “Pastrami and Things” in downtown Philadelphia. “That’s why we’re here today.”
Smith said he came in from Harrisburg, hitting the road at 3 a.m. and meeting his pals at 5 a.m.
Moyer, also of Downingtown, said he came to the parade to honor his late mother, a life-long Eagles fan.
“My mother was from the coal regions, she passed at 91 years old,” the 66-year-old said. “She was an Eagles fan who used to tell me about the old championship games. So this is for her. We’re down here for her.”
The parade caps a glorious week for jubilant fans celebrating an NFL title that had eluded them for nearly 60 years. Led by backup quarterback Nick Foles and second-year coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles beat the New England Patriots 41-33 on Sunday night.
Schools, museums, courts, government offices and even the Philadelphia Zoo were shut down so the city could fete an underdog Eagles team that few outside Philadelphia thought had a prayer of beating the mighty Patriots led by superstar quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.
Organizers said they’re preparing for as many as 2 million people to jam the parade route. No official estimate was released for the parade after the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, but experts have said that crowd likely didn’t exceed 750,000.
Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney asked fans to celebrate with passion and pride after Sunday’s wild postgame celebration was marred by “knuckleheads” who resorted to violence and vandalism.
“Now remember — act responsibly, don’t ruin this for the fans who have waited decades for what will be a historic day as the Eagles finally parade up Broad Street,” he said. “We are, after all, the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.”
A gas station convenience store that was looted and vandalized after Sunday’s game was cleaned up and loaded with snacks — and about 20 police officers were in position to make sure it stayed that way.
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