CHICAGO (WLS) --The party was epic, Chicago! The Cubs are finally World Series champions and millions of fans celebrated their victory Friday.
The parade stepped off in the late morning at Wrigley Field, headed down the Magnificent Mile and culminated with a rally at Hutchinson Field in Grant Park.
PHOTOS: Chicago Cubs World Series victory parade
When President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, he held a rally in Grant Park that drew about 250,000 people. After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013, nearly 2 million people attended the victory parade and rally. The city expects the crowd for the Cubs celebration to be even larger. Late Friday morning, the Office of Emergency Management and Communication estimated 5 million people attended the parade and rally.
The city asked fans to celebrate responsibly, because the celebration would be an event that would showcase Chicago to the entire world.
Thousands of fans gathered near the entrances to Grant Park at Michigan and East Congress Parkway and at Michigan and East Jackson Drive early Friday morning. When the gates opened around 8:15 a.m., fans rushed in to get front-row seats to history.
Once the team arrived, Wayne Messmer sang the National Anthem, Gary Pressy was on the organ and Cubs announcer Pat Hughes introduced Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and Cubs presidents Crane Kenney and Theo Epstein.
After they said a few words, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon was brought to the stage. He gave recognition to the scouts and coaching staff that helped the players become such a successful team.
Then the players were introduced, with a few stepping up to the microphone to thank the fans.
"We are good, boys!" Miguel Montero said.
"I want to thank everyone out here. It was a crazy year for me. You guys kept me going through the rehab. All the credit goes to my teammates. They pushed me through it. They got to the World Series. For me to be able to contribute, it was awesome. I love you guys! We're world champs! Let's do it again next year!" Kyle Schwarber said.
"This game makes a lot of individual rewards. But this is definitely a team award for this team. It's a team full of MVPs and we're in a city of MVPs," Ben Zobrist said.
"Every single person that has worn this jersey, I feel, won the World Series with us. Dempster, Kerry Wood, Ernie Banks - who is looking down, smiling so bright right now - Billy Williams, Ron Santo. Every single player that's still living too has been a big reason we're here and a big part of this," Anthony Rizzo said.
Our special World Series cover: Curses are meant to be broken! pic.twitter.com/mJy1hC4253— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 3, 2016
He got choked up as he started to talk about his mentor and friend, David Ross. Rizzo said he told his agent, after the first time he met Ross, that the catcher was exactly what the Cubs needed to win it all.
"He taught me how to become a real winner. He is like a brother to me. He has taught me a lot in life, on the field, off the field, how to be a better person. I'm forever grateful for him. He's going out a champion forever. The last game he played in, he's a world champion," Rizzo said.
When Ross came up to the mic, he said, "Chicago! Look what the boys got me!"
He kept his thank yous short, since he also got choked up on stage, but he did manage to take a selfie with the millions of fans that filled the park.
Then Rizzo handed the World Series ball to Ricketts, country singer Brett Eldredge sang, "Go Cubs Go," and the rally ended with the players hoisting up the trophy as "We Are the Champions" played in the background.
The Cubs rally was open to the public and security was tight. Everyone who entered the park was be screened. Items like closed bottled water were be allowed in, but not much else. Food vendors were also be on site. In a statement, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thanked everyone working to keep the city safe and happy Friday:
"Thank you to the men and women of the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management, Special Events, first responders, and city workers from all agencies and departments whose hard work made today possible. As we celebrate the efforts of the Cubs on the field, we also honor the Chicagoans who have worked around the clock to make this postseason and parade possible."
In order to accommodate fans leaving the rally, Metra trains will wait until they are filled to leave stations.
The trolleys and buses started rolling around 10:30 a.m.
Then the parade headed downtown, where championship banners line the route. There were rolling closures along Lake Shore Drive as a caravan of about 50 vehicles headed south from Addison to Michigan. Drivers were advised to avoid the area during that time. But motorists on northbound Lake Shore slowed to watch the parade pass in the southbound lanes, causing some congestion.
The caravan reached Michigan Avenue around 11:25 a.m. Hundreds of thousands of fans lined the Magnificent Mile, shouting their praise for the world champions. The fun-loving players and team staff smiled and waved to the crowds as they passed.
Passengers on the double-decker buses had to duck as they drove under the BP Pedestrian Bridge, which connects Maggie Daley Park to Millennium Park over Columbus Drive.
The caravan stopped at Columbus and Balbo, where the team exited the vehicles and headed into Hutchinson Field, where a sea of fans dressed in Cubbie blue waited patiently for them.
After arriving in Grant Park, Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta caught up with Cubs play-by-play announcer Len Kapser, saying that the amount of people in attendance Friday was "mindboggling."
"These people have been ready for something like this for a long time. We're just ecstatic to be a part of it," Arrieta said.
Cubs rookie outfielder Alberto Almora Jr. told Kasper the Cubs fans deserve this victory and for him, this year will be hard to top.
"Two months left in the year, but I don't know if it can get much better than this. From the birth of my son, to getting married, to my father beating cancer and now - to top it off - winning the World Series my first year in the big leagues, it has been just unbelievable," he said.
Jason Heyward said the feeling of winning the World Series was still sinking in.
"What a time in Chicago, this city, a time for history. We knew that was something as a team we couldn't control and checking that off of everybody's list people, generations, years...unbelievable," Heyward said.
Cubs President Theo Epstein said the celebration exceeded his expectations and was bigger than Boston's.
"This was overwhelming. I told my wife, we have to go home and change some diapers and do some laundry just to get our feet back on the ground and back to reality. Our fans were amazing," Epstein said.
Epstein said it was an emotional month and the players wanted to win it for Cubs fans.
"Our players just wanted so badly to bring it home for our fans. I think that is what you saw in those big moments, including the tenth inning couple nights ago. Human beings can accomplish more for others and the group than they can for themselves., I think that is what was on display this month," Epstein said.
Players were still soaking it in Friday night. Some of them - including Travis Wood, John Lackey, Mike Mongomery, as well as Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon - went to the Metro to party and take in a performance by Cubs superfan Eddie Vedder.
Many from the team were spotted out and about in Wrigleyville after the rally. Fans spotted the trophy and team president Theo Epstein.
"We were out here walking and we saw him with his family. Everybody made a crowd over here," said Sammy Calisto.
Players, organization members, family and friends then gathered inside Wrigley Field Friday night for a private fireworks show.
Fans stayed around Wrigleyville well into the night as well, celebrating together. Jan Quin grabbed a World Series sign off one of the trolleys after the parade, then had fellow Cubs fans put their autograph on it.
"I am probably going to frame it and put it somewhere," she said.
READY TO PARTY
For many Cubs fans, the party started very early Friday morning. Actor Bill Murray and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder partied with fans at The Lodge in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood early Friday morning, before the festivities began.
PHOTOS: Cubs fans celebrate
Many fans arrived in Wrigleyville in the middle of the night. Several came in from out of town - from Iowa, to Croatia, to the Philippines! They expected to get a rush of emotions when the celebration begins.
"We're all Cubs fans. We're all here to cherish this moment after 108 years. Go Cubs!" Jason Burkhart said.
"I want a front-row seat to history. I want to witness it all. Honestly, after today, I could die happy," Luke Schingel said.
The city said the celebration was largely safe and positive, with six arrests for battery, damage to city property, disorderly conduct and operating a drone. Officials said 33 people were taken to hospitals for treatment during the events.
One of the biggest social media stories to come out of the Cubs championship season was a high school yearbook prediction from 1993 in which Michael Lee said, "Chicago Cubs. 2016 World Champions. You heard it here first."
Twenty-three years later, Lee told ABC7 Eyewitness News, "I had a dream one night, it's just one of those surreal things. That iconic red sign outside Wrigley Field had World Champs 2016, with Harry Caray just saying all the stuff that he used to say, over and over again."
A trio of best friends since preschool - Alexis Clark, 18; Dilan Rutland, 17; and Vincent Ogauwu, 17 - came in from the suburbs to celebrate together. Thrilled by the Cubs' historic win, they vowed not to attend the victory parade and rally with anyone but each other.
"I think coming to such a big parade, it brings all of Chicago together. For us, it just brings our friendship together," Rutland said.
The three friends will soon be far from each other, each starting college in different states next year, and relished the time together.
"It is definitely a memory for us when we look back at our high school year. It's something we remember," Clark said.
The Chicago Plumbers Union dyed the Chicago River blue around 7:30 a.m. Friday, in honor of the Cubs.
Barricades were set up in Wrigleyville early Friday, so that fans can watch the team board double-decker buses at Sheffield and Waveland to get things started. The players arrived around 8:40 a.m. They took photos inside the ballpark before getting onto the buses with their families.
Slugger Kyle Schwarber told ABC7 the past few hours have been a "whirlwind" and the victory celebration was going to be fun.
"The fans deserve it and we're excited to celebrate with them," Schwarber said.
Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said the feeling of winning the World Series still hasn't sunk in yet.
"We're really excited for this, to see this and see all the people down there," Hendricks said.
Ben Zobrist boarded the bus while holding his World Series MVP trophy. Zobrist said fans in his neighborhood and across the city have been supportive of the team.
"Just yesterday, it was impromptu. I thought some of these kids asked for some autographs and I'm like 'Sure, I'll sign.' The next thing I know, the line is down the block. It was great," Zobrist said.
Cubs catcher David Ross has won a World Series before, but this one was different.
"Unique circumstances, the history behind it, the long wait these fans have suffered through and a lot of positive things about this year. I am just excited for them as much as this group," Ross said.
Ricketts said he is so glad generations of Cubs fans can celebrate the team's victory together Friday. He commended team leaders, like Anthony Rizzo, for helping the team stick together through tough times so they could all make it to the end, as a family.
"I look at guys like (him) and I say, they're not only great players, but people of great character," Ricketts said.
Former Cubs second baseman and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg said this Cubs team is a "high character" group and that is special for him to be a part of the Cubs organization.
"For me, it completes the career to a different level having the chance to be associated with the Cubs as I am now and add a championship to the trophy room and to the resume, it was the only thing missing," Sandberg said.
Emanuel, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Senator Mark Kirk and Senator Dick Durbin were also on the buses with the team.
"I'm very proud of players. They did incredible job all season. The series reflected season. It got tied 6-6, they put on extra battery, dug deep and played as a team. There's a lesson for all of us. Coming together, working as a team, given all the different backgrounds, all the different labels and cultures. That's a lesson for all of us, the whole country, working together as one team to solve our problems," Emanuel said.
"This is wonderful. This is a time to celebrate. This is historic. One hundred and eight years? That's way too long. Hopefully the team will be strong and competitive and having a lot of fun for years to come," Rauner said.
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