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Bernie Sanders Gets Hero’s Welcome in Home State of Vermont

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vermont — Local beer, singer Ben Folds, and men with hair flowing down their backs.

This was Bernie Sanders' Super Tuesday rally.

"I have been all over this country, but the truth is it is great, and great to come home and see all my friends," the former Burlington mayor, Vermont congressman, and sitting U.S. Senator told the audience of nearly 4,000 Tuesday night.

Sanders Addresses Home State Crowd After Win in Vermont 12:58

The event was a hometown hero's celebration for a once little-known politician from a northern New England state-turned national progressive leader.

The atmosphere was euphoric in the Champlain Valley Expo Center just outside of Burlington, even before the race was called in Sanders' favor.

Kegs of Vermont's own FiddleHead IPA and Green State Lager were emptied and served by people wearing shirts with Sanders' face emblazoned on them.

Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream gave a resounding endorsement of Bernie Sanders noting that this was the first time he'd gotten publicly involved in presidential politics.

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Ben Folds, an alternative rock star, songwriter and pianist led the crowd in song just before Sanders came on stage. Even older Vermonters with beards down to their navels joined in unison "ahh's" during Folds' participatory song, "Not the Same."

The audience was so engaged with the singer in fact, that many didn't notice that Vermont was called for Sanders by the major media networks mid-song.

Few seemed to care that no one officially announced the Vermont win during the evening. Sanders only acknowledged the win at the very end of his truncated remarks, "So thank you again for helping us win here in Vermont tonight."

When Sanders finished his remarks, he had to briefly switch stages to sing "This Land is Your Land," what has become a bit of a tradition on the trail whenever a band is in attendance.

People in the room began to leave when Sanders walked off the first stage, but many sprinted back upon realizing they could get one more glimpse of the senator singing the Woody Guthrie American classic.

Those who ran back were rewarded. Once the tune concluded, Sanders—to the seeming dread of his Secret Service detail — dove right into the sea of sweaty Vermonters, shaking hands, hugging, and taking beaming selfies.

Chuck Todd: Super Tuesday Not a Big Boost for Sanders 0:45

This, from a candidate who was once characterized by the New York Times as not kissing enough babies.

For Nancy Wilson, a librarian from Bristol, Vermont, and a self described Sanders fan for "20-30 years," this was a once-unbelievable dream come true.

"If you had told me a year ago I'd be [at a Super Tuesday Sanders rally] tonight, I would have given you a side eye, because as much as I love his message, I never thought we'd get this far," Wilson told NBC News.

"I'm ecstatic," she added, recalling fondly living in Burlington when Sanders was the city's mayor.

This type of lasting relationship was on display all night between the senator and his long-time constituents in attendance.

"On a personal note I want to thank all of you for the love and the friendship that you have given our family. You have sustained me," Sanders said smiling wide to cheers.