Crowds of energetic supporters of U.S. President Barack Obama began gathering on Parliament Hill and along Wellington Street at around 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

As people waited, some made snowmen on the lawn and chanted “Yes, we can!” or “Yes, we will!” while groups of police officers watched from the rooftops.

A little after 10:30 a.m., someone in the crowd announced that the president’s plane had landed and a cheer went up among the hundreds pressed against the security fence at the foot of the steps leading up to the Parliament Buildings.

At 11:45 a.m. Obama’s motorcade, around a dozen black cars and SUVs followed by a half a dozen vans, and two ambulances, entered through the east gate on Parliament Hill, circled behind the East Block, then came to a stop under the Peace Tower.

With the bells ringing and a couple of helicopters circling overhead, the president stepped out of his vehicle and briefly waved, from beneath the tower arches, to the crowds gathered on the lawn of Parliament Hill, sending them into a frenzy.

“I saw someone waving in the middle door and I wasn’t even sure it was him, but then everyone started screaming,” said Ottawa resident Pearly Bhuller, who waited since before 10 a.m., “It’s crazy. I can’t believe I saw him. I keep saying as a joke that I’m going to tell my kids I saw him.”

Michel Pettigrew and Vicky Macchioni came in from Montreal just to go to Parliament Hill.

“It’s more for him to see us than for us to see him,” Pettigrew said. “There’s a lot people cheering and welcoming. It’s a different welcoming than George Bush would have received.”

Macchioni, an American who voted for Obama, said his election has changed the way she feels about her country while travelling abroad.

“It’s been hard sometimes to be an American in another country with George Bush as the president,” she said. “I feel like I can wear an American flag on my backpack and not have to feel weird about it.

(Obama) is offering real change for the United States and possibilities for the whole world.”