Cheering, screaming and waving flags, an estimated 50,000 Barack Obama supporters welcomed his election Tuesday night in a delirious victory celebration in the senator's hometown.
Many had crammed into Grant Park to be a part of something that would be remembered for generations.
"I want her to be able to tell her children when history was made, she was there," said Alnita Tillman, 50, who kept her 16-year-old daughter, Raven, out of school so they could be at the park by 8 a.m., more than 10 hours before the gates opened. Obama was not expected until hours later.
A South Sider like Obama, Tillman had a coveted ticket to the rally in hand and high expectations for the man who was seeking to become the nation's first black president.
"The hope I have for Obama ... it's in the African-American males being able to see what they can be, what they can do," she said.
The downtown Chicago park — where police fought anti-war protesters during the turbulent 1968 Democratic convention — was transformed on an unseasonably balmy night by white tents and a stage lined with American flags and hung with red, white and blue bunting.
Lighted windows in the skyscrapers lining the park added to the festive atmosphere, spelling out "USA" and "Vote 2008."
Watching the results on a jumbo TV screen, the crowd erupted in cheers each time an Obama victory was announced in another state.
On an unseasonably warm November evening, with the temperature around 60 degrees, the rally felt like a cross between an outdoor rock concert and a big family outing. Many people wore Obama T-shirts and buttons and ate pizza. By 9 p.m. several babies slept on their mothers' chests. Other children snoozed in strollers.
In the park crowd was Lisa Boon, 42, of Chicago, who said she burst into tears earlier in the day pondering what an Obama victory would mean.
Boon said her father was the cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black Chicagoan who was abducted and killed in Mississippi in 1955, purportedly for whistling at a white woman.
"I was thinking of all the things done to Emmett and injustices to black people," she said. "This is amazing, simply amazing."
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., also in the rally crowd, called the election "a peaceful revolution."
"Tonight is an extraordinary celebration of an American story," said Jackson, a Chicago Democrat who won re-election Tuesday. "Barack Obama has obviously engaged the American people."
Mayor Richard Daley predicted a giddy night.
"I think everybody will be like a kid," he said. "Everyone wants to be part of American history."
That sense of history was palpable across the city, particularly in the poorest neighborhoods, where people streamed into polling places Tuesday to cast their votes for the man who once walked their streets as a community organizer.
At Grant Park, the hopeful waited in long lines — one for ticketholders who would get a glimpse of the candidate on stage, the other for those in a spillover section of the park who could watch him on a giant screen.
Stephanie Smith, 27, and her husband flew in from Nashville, Tenn., and staked out a spot on the sidewalk with folding chairs and a box of doughnuts early in the morning.
Even without tickets, Smith said it would be worth it to be standing in the park to hear the words: "Our next President of the United States is Barack Obama."
"That's what I'm hoping for," she said.