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Headliners are set for Kerry fete

Thousands to party in Copley Square

Thousands of supporters will flood Copley Square tonight for a star-powered rally they hope will mark the unofficial start of John F. Kerry's presidency.

City workers, fresh from Saturday's massive Red Sox parade, put the finishing touches on staging and bleachers yesterday for the glitzy celebration that will bring to town a raft of Democratic headliners: Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Black Eyed Peas, Carole King, and James Taylor. Don Henley may also make an appearance.

Workers cordoned off most of the square, from the steps of the historic Boston Public Library to the lawn that borders Trinity Church. Guests will have to pass through metal detectors set up by the US Secret Service.

The campaign invited some 10,000 guests, but city officials said others could show up, and the party could spill over onto Boylston Street and near Trinity Church. The number of partygoers could swell to about 35,000, city officials estimated, presenting yet another crowd-induced obstacle in city streets clogged only days ago by fans celebrating the Red Sox World Series victory.

"It's a great opportunity once again to shine the spotlight of the world on Boston," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "John Kerry will be president-elect, and it will be a very special night for the city.

"The city can handle this," Menino said. "We'll deploy the same kind of plan we had during the" Democratic National Convention in late July.

While the bands play, Kerry campaign aides say, supporters can watch election results on several Jumbotrons placed throughout the square.

The stage will be draped with an American flag, and the facade of the Boston Public Library will be lit with images of fireworks.

After a special celebration at the Westin Hotel sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, big donors will make their way to a reserved section facing the library.

Kerry is expected to address the crowd at 11:30 p.m., after watching results either from his Beacon Hill home or a suite in the Westin Hotel. A motorcade will bring him to the rally.

Among those attending are Menino, DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, campaign chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

"John Kerry is so proud of his hometown Boston," said campaign spokesman Michael Meehan. "It's where he started his campaign. It's where he was nominated in July. And tomorrow night it's where he hopes to learn he is president-elect."

After the polls close tonight, several streets in the area may be closed, police said. They include Boylston Street from Exeter to Clarendon streets; Dartmouth Street from Stuart to Huntington Avenue; Huntington Avenue from Dartmouth to Exeter; St. James Avenue from Clarendon to Dartmouth; Stuart Street from Huntington Avenue to Dartmouth Street; and Trinity Place from Stuart Street to St. James Avenue.

Parking around the library will be restricted, with no parking on parts of Exeter, Blagden, and Boylston streets, Huntington Avenue, St. James Avenue, and Trinity Place.

In addition, the MBTA's Green Line station at Copley Square will be closed for inbound traffic starting at 8 p.m. A bus stop on St. James Avenue and Dartmouth Street will be moved to the corner of Boylston Street and St. James Avenue. Between 125 and 150 Boston police officers will be assigned to special details, to be paid by the DNC.

Kerry campaign officials said the party will go on no matter what happens tonight. "A lot of people will come, rain or shine," said Ted Carr, Kerry's director of security for Election Night 2004.

"It's going to be a huge party," said US Representative William D. Delahunt. "Nothing is bigger than the Red Sox. I know diehard Democrats who couldn't choose between a Kerry win and the World Series victory. But I'm really optimistic. I think we'll enjoy both in the space of days."

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