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'Rolling rally' for Patriots today

Duck Boats to be wired for sound

Boston will toast the first professional football dynasty of the 21st century today with a ''rolling rally" that will take the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots from the Hynes Convention Center area to Staniford Street.

But the event will not include the postparade rally that culminated the Patriots celebrations in 2002 and 2004. As the triumphant Boston Red Sox did last fall, Patriots players, coaches, and management will ride the roughly 1.5-mile route on Duck Tour boats equipped with public-address systems. This time, however, the boats' PA systems will be linked, allowing for an organized program of speeches as the procession moves through the crowds.

The parade, which is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. and conclude two to three hours later, will proceed up Boylston Street to Tremont Street and then continue on Cambridge Street. The boats will not dip into the frozen Charles River.

In explaining the absence of a postparade rally, Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston said ''people have more access to the players, can see the players better" in a rolling rally. But city officials also are concerned about luring a gigantic crowd to the plaza, which is still pocked with piles of snow.

With three championship parades under the city's belt, Menino sounded almost blasé as he announced the details of the latest celebration yesterday. The mayor was clearly relieved that the overwhelming presence of Boston Police and other law enforcement officers Sunday night helped prevent a repeat of last year's deadly post-Super Bowl riots.

He pledged a similarly rigorous security approach for today's event. Postgame revelry has turned tragic twice in the past year: James Grabowski, 21, was killed and three others were injured when the allegedly drunk driver of a sport utility vehicle drove into a crowd near Northeastern University on the night of last year's Super Bowl. And after the Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series last fall, Emerson College student Victoria Snelgrove died after a police officer shot her with a pepper pellet gun near Fenway Park. But the Red Sox parade and the two previous Patriots rallies were largely trouble-free.

The mayor dismissed suggestions that Sunday night's security was excessive; some college students had complained that there was a martial atmosphere, and some bar owners grumbled that the city's heavy-handed approach put a damper on business.

"I'll take that question," Menino said when a reporter asked Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole about the bar owners' complaints. "The police were doing their job. Yeah, they might have lost some people drinking in their establishments, but our priority last night was public safety."

About 700 Boston police officers patrolled the streets after the game, supplemented by 300 officers from nearby departments and other law enforcement agencies.

City officials declined to speculate on the size of the crowd they are expecting today. An estimated 1.2 million people poured into Boston for the Patriots' 2002 celebration, and 1.5 million showed up for the team's 2004 parade and rally. The city held both of those events on weekdays. The crowd at last fall's Red Sox parade, which was held on a Saturday, was estimated at 3.2 million. Crowd experts have criticized those numbers as inflated, however.

Andrew Howard, 22, a Suffolk University student who has attended the last two Patriots parades, said today "is a holiday for me and for most Patriots fans." Howard said he will be skipping a public relations class to show his support.

"The players give you entertainment all year, and the parade is a way for us to thank them," he said.

Others, hampered by the workday scheduling, said they would attend only in spirit. Howard James, 46, a chef at the JFK Federal Building, showed his Patriots pride yesterday by wearing a hat and sweatshirt emblazoned with the team's logo, but he said he won't be able to leave the bustling kitchen at lunchtime today.

"I'll be looking out the window, and I'll get the feel of it from there," James said. "Everyone just can't walk off from their jobs."

Menino acknowledged that high school students will be tempted to skip school for the parade, but he urged them not to, saying, "The Patriots are important, but your education is No. 1." Thomas W. Payzant, superintendent of Boston schools, sent out an email yesterday emphasizing that students who skip class will be charged with an unexcused absence.

"We didn't have much trouble with the Patriots parade last year," said Boston schools spokesman Jonathan Palumbo. "The high schools saw a noticeable difference, but not a huge number of absences altogether."

The MBTA will bolster its commuter rail service from the Route 128 Station in Westwood and the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn. Throughout the morning, inbound trains will leave from Westwood every 15 minutes and from Woburn every 25-30 minutes. In the afternoon, the regular weekday schedule will be supplemented with extra trips out of North Station and South Station. The MBTA will operate the subway at near rush-hour levels all day.

Because of the parade, a number of bus routes, including the Silver Line, will be modified between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Special parking restrictions also will be enforced on many downtown streets.

Menino insisted that the event would cost $100,000, far less than the $465,000 spent on last year's parade and rally. He said the city would seek funding from private sponsors and the federal government. Late yesterday, Bank of America said it pledged $50,000.

Globe correspondents Madison Park and Janette Neuwahl contributed to this report.

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