THOUSANDS packed the streets of Accrington to see Stanley celebrate their return to the Football League after 44 long years.
Streets between the Interlink Stadium and Accrington Town Hall, where a civic reception was held for the team, were packed two or three deep with supporters wearing red scarves and waving flags.
When the team reached the town centre, there were gasps of appreciation on the open-topped bus as those on board saw thousands of people jammed into the streets cheering, waving and taking photographs of the historic event.
The team were welcomed to the Town Hall by the Mayor, Janet Storey, and enjoyed a private reception inside with local dignitaries.
Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "The thing about Accrington Stanley is that's it is a wonderful team effort right from the bar staff, everyone is behind the team from bottom to top."
Opposition councillor Leslie Jackson added: "I hope this celebration is the first of many as the team goes from strength to strength."
Stanley chairman Eric Whalley told the crowd: "It's such an occasion for me. I'm sure everyone in Accrington knows how proud I am.
"We didn't expect to see so many people out and I'm very proud that we have achieved what we have achieved.
"We couldn't have done it without the people behind the scenes."
And manager John Coleman said he had "the best job in the world".
One presence throughout the day's festivites was 81-year-old Jack Barrett, who spoke at the meeting at Accrington Library in 1968 which agreed to reform the club. He was the secretary of the club for a decade after it reformed and remains keenly involved in Stanley's progress.
He said: "They said we had nothing when we started and we had to get everything from scratch, and in 1969 I walked from Accrington to Liverpool and back to raise money for the club.
"It gives you a feeling of happiness to see the celebrations now. The town has been behind them all the way and we have built up to this over the years.
"I just stay in the background now, but its a very special day."
One of those who lined Whalley Road to see the team pass was 78-year-old Jack Hargreaves, one of several residents at Wellfield Nursing Home who waited outside to see the spectacle.
He said: "I used to play for Accrington Stanley when I was younger, and I got in the first team a couple of times before I went in the forces.
"I'-'m really proud that they are back in the league. I only wish I could still play with them!"
Brenda and Howard Mould, of Lower Barnes Street, Clayton-le-Moors, were among the crowds who flocked into Accrington town centre.
Brenda, 71, said: "I think it's brilliant. It's been a long time coming. I supported them when they were in the league before.
"Let's hope the town really get behind them now and supports them. There were certainly enough people out to see the bus. It was amazing, like seeing Liverpool or England.
"They are such a well-grounded team and so friendly, we feel like part of a big family."
Alan Duckworth, 90, of Sycamore Crescent, Clayton-le-Moors, waited in Whalley Road to see the team pass on their way to do a lap of honour at the stadium to conclude the celebrations.
The season ticket-holder said: "I have supported the team since 1921 when they first entered the league and I'm very excited for them now.
"For most people this is a once in a lifetime day - I've seen it twice and I hope I don't see them go out of the league again.
"I'm sure I won't because I believe they will make a success of it.
"The celebrations are great and I hope everyone gets behind them now. Being sandwiched between Blackburn and Burnley is a misfortune but I think that now people will support Accrington in its own right."
Gaynor Bowker, 58, of Whalley Road, managed to see most of the day's proceedings by following the team into town and then heading back to the ground for their return.
She said: "I always follow the team and I think it's really good for Accrington as a town to have them back up."
DON'T FORGET - this week's Observer has an eight-page special pull-out on Sunday's celebrations