PITTSBURGH (AP)—Just for today, it’s Sixburgh.
Thousands of Pittsburgh Steelers fans lined downtown streets Tuesday cheering and twirling Terrible Towels at a parade celebrating the team’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Sunday’s Super Bowl, the sixth for the storied franchise.
Fans of all ages came from across the state, and country, and one youngster even brought along a replica Vince Lombardi trophy made with tin foil. In buildings along the parade route, office workers cheered through open windows. Dozens of people packed the floors of a parking garage to get a better view and some shelter from snow showers and temperatures in the 20s.
“It’s history in the making,” said Chad McGown, 31, who staked out his place on the parade route hours earlier.
Even the police got into the spirit, waving their own Terrible Towels from atop horses as they led the parade. Coach Mike Tomlin followed behind in the back of a red convertible, while players holding their personal video cameras cheered and waved from the back of pickup trucks.
Tomlin couldn’t stop smiling as he was greeted on stage at the end of the parade route with thunderous applause.
“What do you say to this?” Tomlin asked the massive crowd. “Steeler Nation, you leave us all speechless, man, we just appreciate the love. How about the Steelers? How about the greatest fans in the world? How about number six? Thank you, we love you guys.”
Steelers’ owner Dan Rooney thanked the city for its support over the years— and said there is more history to be made.
“Stay with us,” Rooney said. “Maybe we’ll get the seventh next year.”
One by one, coaches and players spoke to the crowd. Wide receiver Hines Ward, MVP of Super Bowl XL, led the fans in a chant of “Here we go Steelers, here we go,” while other players danced and did an impromptu rap.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison, whose 100-yard interception return for a touchdown was the longest in Super Bowl history, presented the Lombardi trophy to the crowd. About the same time, huge booms of colorful fireworks were exploded over downtown’s Point State Park, at the confluence of the iconic three rivers.
City officials prepared for as many as 250,000 fans, an estimate based on the number of fans at the 2006 parade celebrating the team’s previous Super Bowl victory. Many fans showed up hours before Tuesday’s parade, including a handful of hardy souls who were camped out on the route before dawn.
Shawn Sedonis, 40, and his son, Garrett, 8, arrived about 8:30 a.m. Garrett was holding a cardboard sign saying, “Sorry Teach, I Have Sixburgh Fever”—to explain his absence from Buffalo Elementary School in the suburb of Sarver.
“I was here for the last parade and this is his first parade,” the bearded Shawn Sedonis said, decked out in a black-and-gold jester hat, game jersey and other team items. “The last time they expected 40,000 people and there were 40,000 people here by 10 o’clock. So we came early.”
Annette Mowery, 47, of Mars, came to the parade with her daughter Lexie, 12, and son, Lucas, 10, who also both skipped school.
“They have the Steeler fever today,” Mowery said.
Six local high school bands were marching in the parade, one for each championship won by the team.
The parade was planned along Grant Street and Boulevard of the Allies, two of the widest streets downtown, instead of a narrower route used for most city parades. About 150 police were on hand to control the crowd and barricades were set up in the streets because the sidewalks were not wide enough to accommodate the overflow.
A huge black and gold banner hung in front of the City-County building, reading “Welcome to Steelers Country Super Bowl XLIII Champions.” The City Council voted to symbolically change the city’s name to Sixburgh for the day, as the Steelers are the first team to win six Super Bowls.
Down the street in front of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, a dinosaur statue held a Super Bowl trophy in one hand and had red feathers protruding from its mouth, what was left from its “Cardinal snacks.”
Die-hard fans like 42-year-old Becky Kimball drove up from Baltimore just to help celebrate the big win.
“We’re here to tell you us Baltimore girls love Hines Ward,” Kimball said, flanked by daughters Karlie, 12, and Elizabeth, 9.
Teresa Nestor, 47, came downtown after getting only three hours of sleep. She had been in Tampa for the Super Bowl, then drove home and arrived at her house in Uniontown at 3 a.m. Tuesday. After a quick rest, she made the 50-mile drive north to Pittsburgh for a spot near the reviewing stand at the end of the route.
“This takes precedence over everything that’s ever happened in my life, this win,” Nestor said.
Erin DelGreco, 34, of Hopewell Township, and her friend left their twin suburbs about 20 miles northwest of the city about 6 a.m. and claimed spots along the parade route about 7 a.m.
“Where else in the world does this kind of stuff happen?” DelGreco said about 9:30 a.m. “Look at all the people already here and we’ve still got 2 1/2 to 3 hours to go.”
Vince Brown, 37, drove about four hours, in traffic, from his home in Clarksburg, W.Va. With his 9-year-old daughter sitting on his shoulders, he was standing with his family about 75 yards from where the parade was to end. He couldn’t see or hear much, but that didn’t matter.
“If I didn’t make it across the river, it would still be worth it,” Brown said.