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Basking in football euphoria and sunshine, orange-clad fans poured into Civic Center Park and lined a downtown Denver parade route Tuesday morning to celebrate the Broncos' 24-10 Super Bowl 50 victory two days earlier over the Carolina Panthers.
Warm February temperatures and championship wishes fulfilled brought Broncos Nation together in massive numbers to revel in a singular success that had been missing for 17 years.
There was so much to share: The team's third Super Bowl title under the ownership of Pat Bowlen, the crowning achievement of a Broncos defense for the ages and perhaps the last dance for 39-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning.
Nearly from sunrise, specks of orange filtered into downtown streets, and the convergence never abated.
Valerie Inzinga guided several family members into prime position near the stage at Civic Center Park where bands would kick off the event. She made the trip from Commerce City with siblings, nieces, nephews and her own kids — including Demario, who was marking his 12th birthday.
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Last time Inzinga stood in this same spot to honor Super Bowl champions — after the Broncos beat Atlanta in 1999 — her son wasn't even born.
"What I want is for the kids to remember that time in 2016 when we made a day of it," she said. "We're basically making good memories for our family."
Tens of thousands of others had the same idea as they grabbed prime spots along 17th Street and Broadway to watch fire engines and flatbeds pass with their football heroes aboard. Even more staked out mostly snow-packed territory in Civic Center, sporting jerseys honoring Broncos present and past.
They came in replicas boasting Elway, Davis, Tebow, Thomas, Talib — and at least one fan even showed the offensive line some love with his Louis Vasquez jersey.
Others arrived in utterly unique outfits — like Russell Urban, a longtime fan who left Albuquerque around midnight and pulled into Denver at 6 a.m. sporting his custom-made white suit with tails, airbrushed with images of colored flames and Broncos insignias.
Underneath, he wore an orange dress shirt and a tie emblazoned with Broncos logos.
"I wanted something a little different," he said of his attire, which drew admiring glances and even folks who asked to pose for pictures with him. "I've had this one for two years. Next year, though, I'm getting an orange tux — white is too hard to keep clean."
Nearby, young Keenan Leonard of Broomfield took a minimalist approach.
He stood shirtless in the morning chill — insisting he wasn't the least bit cold — with a Denver Broncos barrel covering his midsection.
He wore it as a tribute to the beloved Broncos Barrel Man, Tim McKernan, a super-fan fixture at games for 30 years before he died in 2009.
"I'm carrying on his legacy," said Leonard, 13.
His mom, Val Martinez, noting that her son is "well-educated in Broncos history," had no problem allowing her son skip school for the event. His status as a true orange-and-blue fan is no secret at school.
"I'm sure most of his teachers knew even before the game was over Sunday that they would not see Keenan today," she said.
Flags flew. Banners waved. Fans captured the unifying moment in selfies or took in the scene from windows along downtown corridors. And as the crowd swelled, police kept a watchful eye.
"It should be illegal to have this many Broncos fans," said Larry Bickell, one of the faithful from Greeley.
Entrepreneurs hawked buttons and pennants. Orange dominated, but a lot of green changed hands.
"Business is booming," said vendor Antonio Brown.
Around 10 a.m., musical performances struck the first chords of an hours-long lovefest with Denver acts Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Funkiphino and 3OH!3 playing on the steps of the City and County Building. Tens of thousands of people stood in the sun cheering and waving banners.
Meanwhile, the parade — set to launch at noon — was staging several blocks away near Union Station, preparing to stream down 17th Street to Broadway, where it will turn toward Civic Center Park to join a massive rally.
With about 22 fire trucks, five flatbeds and other vehicles lining up north of Lower Downtown, the team was still working out which players would ride on which rig.
This much is clear: Look for Broncos general manager John Elway on Denver Fire Department Engine 7 (a nod to the former quarterback's jersey), and for current quarterback Peyton Manning on DFD Engine 18 (his number).
Gov. John Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock will ride atop DFD Engine 26, said a spokeswoman for Hancock.
Also aboard the trucks will be coaches, players' family members and VIPs. Team cheerleaders and Miles the mascot — along with Thunder the horse — will take part in the parade.
As the crowds grew, fans seemed to feed off the shared emotion of the moment. Anne Raskey held back tears of joy as she soaked in the atmosphere at Union Station.
"This is once in a lifetime," she said. "It makes me want to start crying to be here."
Close by, Denver police led the rapidly assembling fans in cheers — while offering some useful advice for those playing hooky from the daily grind.
"The best way to prove you were home sick is to walk into work with a sore throat," one cop said, exhorting the crowd.
The full schedule is available on the city's website.
Several light rail and bus lines were diverted from the parade route. In addition, Civic Center station, adjacent to the route, shut down as crowds grew.
The high temperature is expected to reach 54 degrees on Tuesday under partly cloudy skies.
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City officials asked fans to arrive early and use public transportation if possible. Also, fans attending the free event should not bring folding chairs or other seating to the event. Backpacks and large bags — both of which are subject to safety inspection — are discouraged.
Alcohol and marijuana are prohibited.
The celebration marks the Broncos' first Super Bowl victory in 17 years. After a 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers in January of 1998, an estimated 650,000 attended the parade and rally. The following year, an estimated 375,000 came out to celebrate the 34-19 Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Staff reporters Elizabeth Hernandez, Jesse Paul and Jon Murray contributed to this report.