Tens of thousands of ebullient paradegoers lined lower Manhattan's Canyon of Heroes -- renamed the Canyon of Heroines for the day -- to toast U.S. women's soccer World Cup championship, a celebration of both the team's victory and gender equality.
The traditional ticker-tape parade from Broadway to Park Row is a scene made iconic by the likes of Albert Einstein, aviators Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, astronaut John Glenn and men's teams like the Yankees, Mets, Giants and Rangers. Friday, it took a historic twist, as the city's premier parade route for saluting heroes and champions saw its first women's athletic team so honored.
"The World Cup was a dream come true, but having this parade here in New York City was one of the best moments of my entire life -- and we all feel the same," team captain Carli Lloyd told the jam-packed crowd outside City Hall as Mayor Bill de Blasio gave the entire team keys to the city.
"U-S-A! U-S-A!" the crowd cheered throughout the morning.
The procession began in Battery Park City about 11 a.m. with team members on floats and tens of thousands of screaming fans lining the route -- and thousands more in the windows above hurling shredded paper and toilet tissue.
Young women packed behind the police barricades shouted and held signs boasting of "girl power!"
A group of Plainedge High School students dressed in red, white and blue came to catch glimpses of the champions.
"I love these women," said Donna Borgogelli, 42, of Massapequa, who brought her twin 15-year-old daughters, Jenna and Julia Fusco, and stepdaughter Katie Fiore, 16. They are inspiring and it shows the world that sports is just not all about men."
"I'm so jealous. They are so amazing. I wish I could be them," said Fusco.
Added Fiore: "It's inspiring. I want to be as dedicated."
De Blasio, whose staff pulled together the $2 million parade and ceremony only a few days ago, said "it's about time" for the city to honor women's sports.
"When they brought home that trophy they also brought back a message about the power of women -- about the strength of women -- and about the need to create a more equal society for all," he said.
"Young women who watched that game will grow up and they'll tell their daughters and they'll tell their sons about that 2015 championship team that made history."
At the parade, fans held handmade signs. Some wore oversize Uncle Sam hats, or team soccer jerseys, or proudly draped themselves in American flags.
Their cheers echoed off the office buildings along Broadway, answered by waving team members, among them Lloyd, who held the World Cup trophy aloft for all to see.
"This is a momentous occasion," Leslie Goldstein, 30, a Plainview native and resident of SoHo, said as she waited with a girlfriend at City Hall Plaza, the parade's end point.
Goldstein, the commissioner of the women's division of the New York Gay Football League -- that's American-style football, not soccer -- said of women's athletics: "They don't get the proper support and recognition that they deserve." Of the U.S. women's soccer victory, she said, "I think this is really a turning point."
With Maria Alvarez