GREEN BAY, Wis. – Thousands of exhausted but euphoric Packers fans cheered the team Monday on its return to Green Bay as Super Bowl champions after their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Schools dismissed early Monday and people took off work so they could see the team as it traveled from Austin Straubel International Airport to Lambeau Field along a route that included Lombardi Avenue, named in honor of the legendary packers coach Vince Lombardi.
Ashley Ellis, 17, and Erica Christensen, 18, of Oak Creek, went to bed at midnight after celebrating the Packers' victory. They were up at 4 a.m. to drive to Green Bay and stake out a spot for the parade. They said the Packers gave them "anxiety attacks" as the Steelers made their second-half comeback, but on Monday all was right with the world in Green Bay. Asked why anyone would get up at 4 a.m. to visit a football stadium, Christensen replied simply.
"Love them," she said.
Area schools released students after a half-day to allow them to attend the parade. By 11 a.m. throngs of fans milled around the stadium's atrium. People lined up for tours of the stadium, asked about tickets to Tuesday's rally and grabbed lunch at Curly's Pub, a restaurant at the stadium named for the Packers' founder, Curly Lambeau.
Some fans just stood in the parking lot and screamed to the sky. Others paraded around with a giant cardboard replica of the Lombardi trophy. The stadium's pro shop was so packed with customers snatching up Super Bowl gear team that officials made shoppers stand in line to get in. Fans across the atrium shouted "Go Pack Go!"
Brett Elliot, 50, of Abrams, beat the rush. Dressed in a leather Packers jacket, he emerged from the pro shop with seven Super Bowl champion T-shirts and $140 lighter. He said a couple shirts were for him and the rest were for his co-workers.
He said he was hoarse from watching the game and partying in downtown Green Bay the night before.
"Has it sunk in?" he said. "I don't know. Maybe after the parade and the celebration."
Dozens of fans helped clear ice and snow from the stadium bowl's bleachers for a rally Tuesday. From the field level, they looked like ants as they shuffled back and forth, dutifully chipping away at ice dams and dumping snow onto a conveyer belt, which carried it to the field where bulldozers pushed it aside. All for free.
The Packers have traditionally asked fans to clear snow from the bleachers during the season, but this time was different.
Adam Shirek, 23, of Milladore, drove two hours Monday to Lambeau for the parade. He said he's an unemployed college student with nothing better to do.
He saw the line of snow volunteers at the stadium and decided to join them. Decked out in Clay Matthews' No. 52 jersey, he attacked the ice with a furor.