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Preparations kicked into overdrive Monday — seemingly at the snap of fingers — for a long-awaited victory party that's expected to draw hundreds of thousands of ecstatic Denver Broncos fans downtown for the team's third Super Bowl victory celebration.
But Tuesday's noon parade and rally will follow a dusty playbook of sorts based on celebrations for four past championships won by the Broncos and the Colorado Avalanche, all between 1996 and 2001.
And the plans reflect two weeks of work behind the scenes by 13 city departments, nonprofit partners and the Broncos, initiated quietly after the team defeated the New England Patriots for the AFC title.
Just hours after the Broncos' Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers, crews were busy Monday morning painting orange and blue stripes down 17th Street and Broadway to mark Tuesday's noon parade route.
And contractors erected a stage in front of the City and County Building that will be put to use before and after the parade — for a 10 a.m. concert featuring locally based music acts, including Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and for the main event, an hourlong rally that should start about 1 p.m.
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Planners say the procession, which begins outside Union Station, will feature plenty of fan touches.
Leading the parade — likely behind the Broncos' horse Thunder, of course — will be fire engines 7 and 18, carrying Broncos general manager John Elway and quarterback Peyton Manning, respectively.
"Broncos Country is on fire," said Janice Sinden, Hancock's chief of staff, during a planning meeting late Monday afternoon. "We're going to put on the best show they've seen."
Head Coach Gary Kubiak and the rest of the team, some accompanied by family, will join members of the Bowlen family, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock on the rest of the 22 firetrucks, most on loan from neighboring departments.
Miles the mascot and the team's cheerleaders also will be out in force.
City officials say only that they expect crowds in the "hundreds of thousands." The forecast calls for noon temperatures nearing 50 degrees under partly cloudy skies, which could push numbers higher, perhaps even beyond the rough estimate of 650,000 who attended the celebration for the Broncos' first Super Bowl victory, in 1998.
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So, too, could the chance to watch Manning hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in perhaps his last appearance as the Broncos' quarterback, should he decide to retire on top.
But with the orange crush of fans expected to begin building in Civic Center by dawn, many details still were coming together as the sun set.
The 90-minute meeting attended by Sinden also drew dozens of city officials, planners and a Broncos representative. They sorted out security details — which The Denver Post agreed not to publicize — and the logistics of getting the Broncos players and coaches from the fire engines to the rally stage. They also hashed out building and event access for the 750 VIP guests of the city, sponsors and the Broncos once they take their seats at the front.
"We all know this is a tremendous undertaking in a short period of time," with hiccups inevitable, said Steve Sander, a consultant to the Broncos and to Visit Denver. He's led the planning alongside the city's director of special events, Katy Strascina.
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The effort also has drawn on The Event Group, a planner of large concerts and events that put together the production for the Broncos' rallies in 1998 and 1999.
They know to save the crowd-pleasing moment for last, with Manning likely closing the rally.
Leading the rally will be 760-AM sports radio hosts Dave Logan and Susie Wargin and former Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey.
How much all this will cost is hazy. The city hasn't tallied its expenses, including police overtime.
Sander says donors and sponsors have ponied up about $150,000, and the Broncos will contribute a similar amount. Those private funds will pay costs including The Event Group's bill.
Morning commuters should expect some street closures near Civic Center, but police don't plan to close major streets until 10 or 11 a.m. — unless the crowds lining the route build too quickly.
Officials encourage fans to take public transit.
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"We are encouraging folks to get down here early," said Jenny Schiavone, Denver's director of citywide marketing. "Plan to stay late. Come with your water bottles so that you can stay hydrated."
Ahead of the event, Monday's meeting also focused on ways to avoid kinks from the past.
In 1998, the parade down the same route took more than four hours as fans rushed the buses and fire trucks carrying the players. The next year, the Broncos tried to scuttle the parade but relented following fan outcry, compromising with a six-block route, with barriers keeping fans back.
With a goal of a one-hour parade down the longer route this time, the focus will be on keeping it on schedule.
The last two weeks of planning mirror a similar effort two years ago, ahead of the Broncos' last Super Bowl appearance. Fans never got to experience the celebration.
This time, they will — in a party many see as long overdue.
By the numbers
Estimated crowds for the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl celebrations in 1998 and 1999, with the first one drawing the higher — and some say inflated — number. The Colorado Avalanche drew an estimated 450,000 fans to the NHL team's first Stanley Cup celebration in 1996 and 250,000 in 2001.
Tuesday's noon parade route, from Union Station to Civic Center Park.
Firetrucks carrying players, coaches and elected officials.
VIP seating at the rally for guests of the city, event sponsors and the Broncos.
Portable toilets in and near Civic Center.
Denver city departments and agencies with a role in planning.
Gallons of orange and blue paint used for stripes on the parade route.
Sources: Denver city officials, Denver Post archives.