Related: Live Updates, Slideshow, And Video From Today’s Giants Ticker Tape Parade

Exuberant San Francisco Giants fans swarmed Market Street and braved unseasonable heat today to give a hero’s welcome to the team that brought the city something it’s been awaiting for more than 50 years: a World Series championship.

Fans spent hours commuting from as far as Salinas and Concord to snag a spot along the parade route from the Financial District to Civic Center Plaza, donning panda costumes commemorating infielder Pablo Sandoval and showing off shaggy beards grown in honor of quirky relief pitcher Brian Wilson.

While one bicycling panda elicited cheers as he waved to fans, another Sandoval representative made himself available to more than 100 people who wanted to snap a picture with him, just as he had been doing at more than 10 Giants games this season.

Under that fuzzy panda head, which spanned about 3 feet, was 57-year-old Daly City resident Larry Kitagawa, who sported the bear costume to as many home games at AT&T Park as he could get tickets to, as well as to the Civic Center Jumbotron showing of the clinching Game 5 on Monday.

“It was really crowded and hot, but I kept (the costume) on for Pablo Sandoval,” the dedicated fan said of Monday’s game, where the Giants won the World Series by defeating the Texas Rangers 3-1.

“They love The Panda,” Kitagawa said of fan reactions to his outfit, alluding to Sandoval by the player’s nickname. “I really enjoy when people see me out of the blue, and the smile that comes over their faces and the love they have for The Panda.”

One didn’t need to be wearing a panda outfit to feel the heat today: temperatures in sunny downtown San Francisco reached the 70s as hundreds of thousands of people packed the street’s sidewalks, creating an impenetrable human wall starting at Fifth and Market streets by the time the procession began around 11:30 a.m.

While most of the sweating fans withstood the summer-like weather, some – particularly people with young black-and-orange clad children – gave in to the heat, abandoned hope of seeing their favorite players, and pushed their way through the crowds in search of shade and water.

With regards to viewing strategy, “I guess the main thing to do is climb on something,” said 31-year-old Fremont resident Maurice Somarriba, referring to all the people scaling trees, light posts, and bus shelters to get a view of the parade.

Still more people cheered from rooftops as high as 10 stories above Market Street, or otherwise pressed against apartment windows or scaled the outside of buildings trying to reach even the most miniscule outcroppings to perch on.

People without access to raised viewing points tried to get a worthwhile spot by arriving hours before the parade’s anticipated 11 a.m. start time, sometimes losing members of their groups as they streamed toward San Francisco via Caltrain, BART, car, and, in one case, a $50 taxi cab ride.

Salinas resident Monica Carnero, 40, left Monterey County with two girlfriends at 6:45 a.m., and the three women drove to the Millbrae BART station, where they were met with a nearly two-hour wait to board a packed train bound for San Francisco.

Frantic not to miss the parade, the Salinas women flagged down a cabbie heading to San Francisco International Airport, convincing him to bail on his scheduled fare and drive them to Market Street.

“It was worth paying 50 bucks,” Carnero said giddily from the spot the ladies found at Fifth and Market streets.

The unending din of cheers, whistles, and horns heightened as marching bands, parade floats, and more than a dozen trolley cars rerouted from Powell Street and carrying the beloved players and other Giants organization members processed down Market Street for nearly half an hour.

“This is definitely the biggest public event I’ve ever seen in the city, even bigger than Gay Pride,” said Karen Edwards, a fan who trekked for more than two hours from Palo Alto to wind up crammed against fellow Giants lovers in all directions.

“It’s like being on an elevator for a few hours,” she said of the impassable crowds.
After all the players had waved to the adoring fans chanting their names – or, in Wilson’s case, fan-ascribed mantra “Fear the Beard” – the crowds quickly lightened as hoards of overheated and dehydrated fans decided to skip the following reception in Civic Center Plaza and just begin the journey home.

Among the thousands who decided to stay was 22-year-old Academy of Arts student Francisco Page, who was fortunate enough to be able to walk to the parade after class.

The Ohio native moved to San Francisco four years ago, and said the joy and unity fostered by this season’s series gave him even more reasons to love the city with which he was already enamored.

“This is nothing like anything I’ve ever witnessed before,” Page said. “The people, the team, everybody. It’s a great fan base here in this city. The best city ever.”

Kyveli Diener, Bay City News

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