BOSTON – First came the whoop of a siren, and an excited energy reverberated through the crowd gathered at Government Center. The confetti came next, catching the golden afternoon sunlight over Tremont Street like glitter. Then the screams and shouts began moving through the crowd from the front like a rippling wave, a duck boat's horn cut through the roar, and everyone's arms raised their phones over their heads: the parade had arrived.
Scores of elated fans packed the narrow streets of downtown Boston Tuesday morning to see their beloved Patriots lift the Lombardi trophy for a record sixth time since the turn of the millennium. More than 1 million people were expected to turn out Tuesday, and they did in droves, buoyed by the unseasonably warm and sunny February day.
Patriots fans have more than enough to celebrate: As six-time world champions, their team tied the Pittsburgh Steelers' franchise record of six Super Bowl victories, and shattered their own superstar's unprecedented full-hand ring display.
Rene' Gaudet of Haverhill watched the parade from Boylston Street with her 15-year-old daughter, Abby, and Abby's friends. One of the friends tossed a football back and forth to the duck boats, gathering 10 athletes' signatures in the process, including running back James White's, Gaudet said.
"This is like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. This era, I don't think a lot of people realize that this era is going to be written into sports books as football history," Gaudet said.
"It's an amazing time to be a Pats fan."
Many made the trek south from the Merrimack Valley like Gaudet, navigating an overloaded commuter rail system or breaking the trip into pieces: by car, by train, by foot.
Coady Muniz, 24, said he boarded a train in Haverhill Tuesday morning that filled so quickly, no more passengers could board after the train hit Lawrence.
"It feels great," he said from Tremont Street about an hour before the start of the parade. "I've been a fan since grade school."
At Government Center, fans patiently awaited the team's arrival by duck boat. Spectators threw white confetti from the upper floors of the Scollay Building on Court Street. Toddlers sat on adults' shoulders, craning their necks for a view of the boats cresting the hill of Tremont Street.
As the parade rolled past City Hall, the fans' cries carried backward through the crowd like a wave. Hundreds of cell phones were held aloft while the team's stars – legendary quarterback Tom Brady, a shirtless Rob Gronkowski, and Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman – took in the adoration.
Edelman, whose Super Bowl performance solidified his status as one of the playoff greats, hoisted the Lombardi trophy from the front of a duck boat as the parade neared the end. He waved his arms and put a hand to his ear, daring the crowd to get louder.
For Kylie Seymour, a Fitchburg State University student who hails from Haverhill, her first parade experience was exactly what she'd expected.
"All the energy from the crowd when Tom Brady came by, Julian Edelman came by, Gronk, the big name players on the team – the energy from the crowd around us, everyone getting hyped up, was pretty fun," said Seymour, who went to Boston with her brother, Zach. "And seeing Bill Belichick smile!"
And it wasn't just the fans' attitudes that were on point: it was their fashion choices, too. For every Hightower, Moss, Edelman and Gronkowski jersey there were 10 Bradys; but jerseys aside, fans came out in Patriots suits, overalls, hats and pajama pants.
As the parade came to an end, fans began their mass exodus from the city, happily relishing yet another start to a year as defending world champions.
"We think they're going to go back (to the Super Bowl), obviously," Gaudet said, "but you never know."