Fans excitedly celebrate their championship team on Sunday. (Photos by Mingo Martin/Carolina News and Reporter)

Thousands of spectators hit Main Street on Sunday to celebrate the USC’s women’s basketball team’s third NCAA Championship.

Floats traveled a 90-minute parade route from the 1700 block of Main Street to the intersection of Main and Gervais streets before arriving at the South Carolina Statehouse.

University of South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley, starter Te-Hina Paopao, and Mayor Daniel Rickenmann were among those to speak at the Statehouse afterward.

Fans lined up along the parade route before noon for the 2 p.m. parade.

The streets and Statehouse grounds were packed shoulder to shoulder by the time the team arrived.

“(Dawn) supports the community, so everyone wants to support her,” said Becky Hollins, a longtime fan of the team.

Debbie McDonald, a former kindergarten and second-grade teacher, was complimentary of Staley’s “Read with the Gamecocks” program. It was one of the many things that drew her to watch the team.

McDonald didn’t make it to the two earlier parades, in 2017 and 2022, but she knew to get there early for this one.

“We got here at about 11,” McDonald said. “…We’re all in. We love ’em. I mean how could you not?”

Hollins has sat right near the Statehouse for all three parades.

“I was right here in ’22, and it’s getting even bigger and bigger, so, it’s great,” Hollins said. “I tried to tell my nephews to get here early. But don’t know where they are.”

Sylvira Grady, a USC alumna, got to watch the parade against the barriers on the corner of Hampton and Main streets.

“It’s a very exciting, very proud time so I had to come out and support the team,” Grady said. “Got to get pictures of all the players, the video footage and everything, so it was great.”

When USC President Michael Amiridis took the stage, he said an empire was being built in South Carolina.

South Carolina graduated all five starters after last season.

“And yet, here we are, celebrating today. Celebrating excellence,” Amiridis said.

The Gamecocks have won 107 of their last 110 games, which includes a 57-game home winning streak that dates back to December 2020.

Selena Bookert, a long-time fan of the program, recalled the years of Staley’s tenure when it wasn’t always like that.

“I’ve been there since the beginning,” Bookert said. “(There used to be) no assigned seats (in the arena). And now you need to get season tickets, and they’re all sold out down low.”

McDonald says it was Staley that got her to watch the team. Now, every game is a big family event.

“We tailgate at our house and have the ball games in our living room when we don’t get to go,” McDonald said. “We enjoy our Gamecocks – hard not to enjoy them.”

S.C. Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, holds up a fun sign along the parade route.

A child watches for the players from atop some tall shoulders.

Dawn Staley and USC president Amiridis embrace as she takes the Statehouse stage.

Debbie McDonald holds her spot as she waits for the parade to begin.

Sights from the Main Street Parade