The air was freezing and the streets were packed, but spirits were high at the Baltimore Ravens Victory Parade Tuesday in Baltimore, and fans from Howard County are calling it the experience of a lifetime.
"It was unbelievable, to see the fans of Baltimore come out and show their support like that," said Mitch Hooper, of Columbia, and a member of Ravens Roost #4 in Ellicott City. "It was a moving experience. It's hard to explain."
According to the City of Baltimore, an estimated 200,000 people attended the parade and rally at M&T Bank Stadium, thrown in celebration of the Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, less than 48 hours earlier.
The parade was delayed by more than an hour, and crowds of people lined the parade route, clogging sidewalks and chanting, trying to stay warm.
The sea of humanity extended to the stadium, where Hooper and his friends went when they realized the parade would be overwhelmingly unnavigable. There were at least 25,000 people on the field, never mind the over-capacity stadium. It was jubilant, Hooper said, to see so many first-time stadium-goers in the club-level seats with him; he was glad they were sharing that experience.
Sara Tagget, of Ellicott City, witnessed the parade crowd first-hand. Standing on Pratt Street on the corner near the Convention Center near the Light Rail stop, she saw masses of people trying to get in and off the trains.
"It was incredible, and a little scary," she said. "If you fell, you'd get trampled."
Tagget is a math teacher at Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City, and taught a few classes in the morning before leaving for the parade. She said she wrestled a little bit with attending the parade, but thought, "Why not go?" She encouraged the same for her students.
"This is history," she said. "And you can be a part of it. We may never get this again. ... What a great thing, when the kids go to the parade and they can tell their friends and family, 'I was there.' How often do we get that?"
Howard County schools spokeswoman Rebecca Amani-Dove said Tuesday that teacher absences are "above the average for this time of year," and student absenteeism was at 10 percent at three county schools, and 13 percent at one on Tuesday. However, the schools were unable to determine whether the absences were related to the parade.
Theresa Griffin, a member of Ravens Roost #4, said seeing so many young people at the rally and parade was the best part of the festivities.
"I'm going to be 50, and to watch the younger generation experience this, to know what we have carried, that was my favorite part," she said. "Now the younger generation can carry this team on."
Hooper went to the celebration when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001, and while "that was fun," this year was truly "once in a lifetime," he said.
Tagget agreed. "It was so cold, but you didn't feel it because of the adrenaline," she said. "Again, this is history. The Ravens could win another, and there could be another parade, sure, but there's never another now."