A skywriter spelled out "Red Sox Nation." Signs in windows over Tremont Street read "Thank Youk." Vendors sold brooms. And pitcher Jonathan Papelbon finally came out of his shell.
All right, Papelbon didn't need a lot of prodding, not in his sunglasses and kilt, not as he played the air guitar, did a jig, and used a broom over the side of his flatbed truck to pretend he was rowing down the street.
Thronging the streets on a sparkling autumn day, Red Sox Nation cheered and chanted for its world champion team at a celebratory parade for the second time in three years.
Rolling Rally II crowned a season in which victory seemed more destiny than magic. But if there were any doubts that a second World Series title would be as exhilarating, the fans erased them yesterday.
From Fenway Park to Copley Square to the Boston Common to City Hall, the very air seemed jubilant. Children skipped school, and grown-ups skipped work, or at least lunch, to see their beloved club's victory tour.
"Incredible," said Angel Zayas, the director of office diversity and equal opportunity at the state Department of Revenue, who watched the passing insanity in a suit and tie. "What a team, hunh? What a team."
The players, riding on a convoy of duck boats under cloudless skies, happily returned the love. Captain Jason Varitek waved the trophy. Manny Ramírez told the crowd he loved them. Papelbon reprised his Riverdance and played air guitar with the Dropkick Murphys. Jacoby Ellsbury gave the victory sign as Bobby Kielty sang, giddily off-key, into a microphone as his Duck Tour boat passed the Common.
"Sweet Caroline!" the home run-hitting pinch-hitter sang.
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" the delirious crowd bellowed back.
The 3-mile route was much the same as the one in 2004, except that this time it did not go into the Charles River. It passed from the Fenway to Back Bay along Boylston Street, alongside the Public Garden and the Common via Tremont Street and then down Cambridge Street to City Hall Plaza.
Police declined to provide estimates of yesterday's crowds, but MBTA officials said that about 1 million people rode the subway yesterday (about the same number as on the day of the Red Sox victory parade in 2004), compared with the usual 650,000 riders.
There were 21 arrests yesterday, police said, and no injuries. They only person who got hurt was Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who tripped while carrying the World Series trophy down some steps off a stage at Fenway Park before the parade. His spokeswoman, Dot Joyce, said the mayor hyperextended his knee and wound up having to watch the rally from his City Hall office.
"Our poor mayor," she said. "It's a big day for him today, and he loves this stuff, but what can you do?"
At Copley Square, fans crammed in 10 deep behind the interlocking metal barriers that lined Boylston Street, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite players and the World Series trophy. They squeezed onto the steps of the Boston Public Library, stood on newspaper boxes, lined the roof of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, and even peeked out the upper windows of Old South Church. The crowd erupted as the first duck boat came into view.
Loring Edmonds, 45, of Millis, dusted off the sign she made for the 2004 parade that read, "Bleary Eyed Bliss."
"I'm relieved they won," she said. "I can't keep up with the night games."
Some weren't satisfied with seeing the spectacle just once.
Kaitlin Erickson, 18, a Northeastern University student from East Granby, Conn., ran from Massachusetts Avenue to Tremont Street and watched the parade pass her four times.
"My heart is beating like 5,000 times a minute," said Erickson, who carried a cup of coffee the whole way.
If the 2004 Series was for the older fans who had long waited for the 86-year Curse of the Bambino to be lifted, this one was for the kids, the next generation. The decidedly youthful crowds yesterday seemed to testify to that, and their excitement about the team's newest players made them seem like the parade's biggest stars.
"Since we have so many young players, it's going to go on for a while," said Nora Lehan, 16, of Wrentham, flashing a smile as she unfurled a Red Sox banner on the Common.
Despite warnings from school officials around New England that attending the parade would not be an acceptable reason for skipping school, multitudes of pupils did it anyway. Officials at the 57,000-student Boston public school system said attendance was down by 3 percent overall, but headmasters thought the number was much higher at high schools. The Boston Arts Academy, located on Ipswich Street across from Fenway Park, saw a 10 percent dip in attendance yesterday despite Archbishop Desmond Tutu's morning visit, said Carmen Torres, coheadmaster.
Jaelene Virella, 9, of the South End, who wore an oversized Sox cap and carried a toy bear wearing a Red Sox shirt, played hooky with her mother's consent.
"I stayed up all the way to the end of the last game," she said. "I really, really wanted to be here."
Old-timers joined in yesterday's festivities, too. Thousands of all ages gathered at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Tremont Street, chanting, "Lets go Red Sox!"
Tony Guarino, 70, of Winthrop, and Phil Viola, 73, of East Boston, both retired custodians, looked elated. "We never thought we would live to see one World Series," said Guarino, who remembers spending 50 cents in the 1950s for seats in the bleachers.
"We're more than ecstatic," Viola said.
Kaye Crowley, 65, of Franklin, persuaded her husband Bob to come out to the parade so she could see Papelbon dance. The pitcher obliged, hopping about to the Dropkick Murphys' live performance of "Shipping Out to Boston," and the crowd sang and danced along with him.
"My grandkids are jealous," she said.
On the edge of the Common, Keith Noble, 43, of Quincy, who wore a Red Sox jersey and a 2-foot-tall plastic pumpkin head, came prepared, arriving with a backpack full of beer and a boom box blaring a mix of baseball favorites like "Dirty Water" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" that Noble made for the 2004 parade.
"If you would have said in 2000 that we'd have three Super Bowls and two World Series, they'd have carried you away," he said.
But some fans were already thinking ahead to next year. As the duck boat carrying the team's top brass cruised by the Common, the crowd hollered, "Re-Sign Lowell!" again and again, referring to third baseman and Series MVP Mike Lowell, who is now a free agent.
After all, living with a curse for so long can do things to you. Clover Patterson, 38, of Keene, N.H., carried a homemade cardboard sign that read, "I ran 26.2 miles for you - twice!" - referring to marathons she ran in the spring of both 2004 and 2007.
Coincidence? She thinks not.
"It's extremely eerie," said Patterson, who was raised in a Sox-loving family in Vermont. "In fact, I was going to not run any more marathons because frankly, I don't like it, but after they won this year, how could I stop? I love my team so much, I guess I'm going to have to keep running."
Beth Chapman of Brookline trekked to Copley to watch the parade with her parents and her two young daughters, Millie, 2 months, and Delilah, 3, who was born just before the 2004 World Series. Her favorite player? "Big Papi," she said in a small voice.
And, lucky girl, when the parade passed by, she and her mother waved at David Ortiz, and he waved back. "It was wonderful," Chapman said.
But she added that she does not intend to raise spoiled children. "I think I'm going to be one of those people that sits them down on my knee and says, 'Don't get fresh; it wasn't always this way.' "
David Abel, Noah Bierman, Maria Cramer, Tracy Jan, and Keith O'Brien of the Globe staff contributed to this report.