The confetti-blowers have been loaded, the route readied, the duck boats decorated.
At noon today, the Boston Red Sox will take to the streets in yet another victory parade, their second in four seasons, to celebrate a World Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies that marks the team not as a fluke, but a perennial powerhouse.
A now familiar caravan of duck boats will carry the Sox through the city on what is expected to be a raucous ride. Giant video screens in Copley Square, on Boston Common, and at City Hall will show the festivities from start to finish. Jonathan Papelbon is expected to reprise his Irish stepdance to the music of the Dropkick Murphys, who will join him on a flatbed truck in the procession.
"He promised the people he would do the dance, and he will do the dance," Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday.
As a bleary-eyed city adjusted to its baseball club's championship habit, it was all Red Sox all the time yesterday. At Logan Airport, world-weary cargo employees openly shrieked upon the players' arrival. Around Fenway Park, hundreds upon hundreds of fans filled souvenir shops and snapped up championship memorabilia. In staid Back Bay, businesses along Boylston Street prepared for the onslaught of the parade.
On Yawkey Way, well more than a thousand fans gathered to catch a glimpse of their returning heroes and the glittering World Series trophy. While they waited for the buses to arrive they chanted "Let's Go Red Sox," sang "Sweet Caroline", and bounced around beach balls as if it were the bleachers. Many fans said that while 2004 erased years of frustration, this championship was every bit as sweet.
"Last time, it was for our parents, this time it's for us and our kids" said Maureen Fredette, 53, of Stoneham, who waited to greet the players at Fenway yesterday.
City officials declined to estimate how many spectators are expected, but if past "rolling rallies" for the Red Sox and New England Patriots are any indication, hundreds of thousand of fans - from suburban families with schoolchildren to downtown office workers - will descend on the city.
The parade, which city officials said will last two hours or longer, will begin at the corner of Kilmarnock and Boylston streets, head down Boylston Street to the Boston Common, then turn onto Tremont Street and continue past City Hall to New Chardon Street - a three-mile route. At the request of players, Menino said, the duck boats will not continue into the Charles River, as they did in 2004.
The parade will continue moving at all times, but will slow to a crawl at Copley Square, the Parkman Bandstand on the Common, and City Hall Plaza, where the Jumbotrons will be. Papelbon is expected to display his fancy footwork at each of those locations, and perhaps some others, if the mood hits him.
The mayor is encouraging fans to take public transportation to the parade. Parking restrictions along the route were scheduled to go into effect at midnight and road closures at 10 a.m. He is not encouraging Boston Public School students or administrators to skip school for the occasion.
"Attending the victory parade is not an acceptable excuse for an absence by any student or staff member," read a statement issued yesterday by Superintendent Carol R. Johnson.
At Fenway yesterday, some parents had taken their children out of school to celebrate the occasion and planned to keep them out a second day for today's parade.
"It's a special occasion," said Carlos Rincon, 45, from East Boston, who was wearing a Manny Ramírez jersey. His children, Stephanie, 13, and Steven, 8, said they never had a doubt that the Red Sox would win.
"Since the beginning of the season I knew they were going to do it," Stephanie said.
Laurel Sparks, 45, of Ashland was called into Boston yesterday for jury duty. She didn't get put on a jury, so she had time to head over to the impromptu rally at Fenway. She said she was happy they swept because she couldn't have stayed up another night. "In 2004, everybody was waiting for the other shoe to drop," Sparks said. "This time, it's just pure happiness."
After exiting the buses at Fenway, most players headed for their cars, while others gave media interviews. Owners John Henry and Tom Werner held the World Series trophy above their heads, before passing it on to slugger David Ortiz. Before the rally started, fans streamed into a Yawkey Way souvenir shop to snap up World Series paraphernalia. Staff said they had seen a nonstop stream of customers since about noon.
Along the parade route yesterday, preparations were underway for today's salute to the team. At Best Cellars Wine Shop on Boylston Street, general manager Jennifer John was busy selecting a handful of sparkling wines and champagnes for a "Celebrate Red Sox Wine Tasting" already advertised outside the store.
"I'm sure we'll make it a big party all day," said John, a third-generation Sox fan who settled on Veuve Clicquot, Saniger Cava, and a few others.
Down the street at Sir Speedy printing, owner Ed Borash said all his employees would wear Red Sox gear today instead of their usual uniforms. He said he doesn't really expect them to get much work done anyway.
"It gets really crazy; people aren't in work mode," Borash said.
While no businesses said they were giving their employees special dispensation to play hooky for the parade,
City Sports on Boylston Street received its shipment of Red Sox Champion T-shirts at 6:45 a.m. yesterday. At lunch, the store was packed with fans who wanted to get their hands on the latest gear.
"We were folding, separating, and handing out shirts all at the same time. I think I've folded more than a thousand shirts," said Jeff Marcus, who was standing at the front door behind a table piled high with Red Sox World Champion T-shirts.
Marcus, who said he couldn't stay awake beyond the seventh inning Sunday night, said he is expecting even more people today.
"It will definitely be a lot busier than we are used to," he said. "Chaotic, that's a good word for it."
When the Sox arrived in Boston yesterday after clinching the Series in Denver at 12:05 a.m., a few intrepid fans awaited at the southern edge of Logan Airport. "I wanted to be the first fan to welcome them back," said Al Siciliano, 41, of East Boston, who took the day off from his job washing windows, donned his Sox cap and shirt, and headed to the south gate of Logan where VIPs such as the president often exit onto the tarmac. "If I could say one thing to them, it would be, 'Thank you, and thank you we don't have to wait another 86 years.' "
Jeff Mann, 22, of Newton and a friend found their way to the gate by following State Police troopers on motorcycles. "I just wanted to get up close and show them some support and to tell them, 'Good job-You're awesome,' " Mann said.
The team began rolling out about 3:30 p.m. in several coach buses, lead by a State Police cruiser, with Ramírez riding shot gun and holding up his index finger. When one of the buses passed with David Ortiz smiling broadly in the front, Pena Perez, 23, a secretary who works in the cargo department at Logan began shrieking.
"I'm going to die of happiness," she said.