BELLINGHAM - "SEA-HAWKS! SEA-HAWKS! SEA-HAWKS!" rang from the crowd of about 700 blue-and-green-clad fans gathered around a raised stage. Phones and cameras lifted high above heads in unison as the sliver, gleaming object they had all come to see was raised on a six-foot stand and started to rotate slowly.
The 2013 Seattle Seahawks made waves around the country when it became the first Pacific Northwest team to win a major championship since the 1979 Seattle Super Sonics nearly 35 years ago. Those waves reached Bellingham on Sunday as the Vince Lombardi Trophy was placed on display as a part of the 12 Tour from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Best Western Plus Lakeway Inn.
Seahawks mascot Blitz roamed the crowd, signing footballs and jerseys, taking photographs with fans and giving out high-fives. The Blue Thunder drumline group, boasting booming drums and crashing cymbals, provided the sounds of the stadium as fans milled around the parking lot to take pictures, reminisce about the Seahawks 43-8 Super Bowl drubbing of the Denver Broncos, grab a Blitz Burger or a Seattle Dog, and of course, stand in line to meet some Seagals, the team's cheerleaders.
No players attended the event, though fans could pose with life-size cutouts of strong safety Kam Chancellor, cornerback Richard Sherman, cornerback Byron Maxwell and safety Earl Thomas.
Nick Potter, a professor of film and English at Whatcom Community College, posed with his mother Jill and father Darrel in front of the player cutouts after getting photos of the trophy. Potter said the event was a great effort by the Seahawks to bring the fans closer to the team, especially since the fans are so much a part of the team.
"It's not superlative to say that we won the championship," Potter said, emphasizing the fan involvement. "We really had a part, we charged them up."
Bob Hill, who lives in Burlington, was at the viewing party with his nephew. He arrived at 12:15 p.m. to make sure he had a good spot to see the trophy. As he sat at a white-clothed table in his Seahawks championship T-shirt, his nephew scampered into a crowd of people being handed neon-green towels with the number 12 - to represent the fans as the ceremonial twelfth player.
Hill had season tickets in the 1980s, when the Seahawks played under the protective dome and Astroturf of the now-gone Kingdome. He remembers fan favorites quarterback Jim Zorn and wide receiver Steve Largent connect for passes in the very earliest days of the team. Lacking season tickets these days, Hill still tries to catch any game he can, most recently attending the first game of the 2013 playoff run against the New Orleans Saints.
"It was deafening and I couldn't hear myself talk," Hill said. "It was also pouring down rain, but nobody cared."
The celebration Sunday was almost interrupted by adverse weather as the sky threatened to open up, but only light sprinkles hit. Best Western General Manager Larry MacDonald said a plan was in place if the weather got nasty.
The tour happens every summer throughout the Northwest as a way to drum up fan interest for the upcoming season, which for the Seahawks is less than a month away as players report to camp July 24. It came to Bellingham last summer and included player appearances by wide receiver Doug Baldwin and former Seahawks defensive tackle Joseph "Red" Bryant. MacDonald worked with Whatcom County Tourism President Loni Rahm and Seahawks Fan Development Coordinator Thomas Buren to bring the tour back because of how smooth the process was the previous year.
"It's been a wonderful experience and this is a great bunch to work with," MacDonald said.
Hill has waited for a Super Bowl victory to arrive for a long time. He watched the final whistle blow surrounded by 50 friends and family in his home, blasting air horns in celebration. He hopes a Seahawks dynasty is on the horizon.
"This just gets people motivated and hungry for another one," he said.