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Duck boat driver looks forward to third Sox parade

Drivers are as eager to take part in the rolling rally as players and fans.

Duck boat driver Colleen McKinnon with Johnny Damon at the 2004 rally.

Duck boat driver Colleen McKinnon with Johnny Damon at the 2004 rally.

Adiehard Red Sox fan, Colleen McKinnon did not want to jinx anything or to risk offending the baseball gods. But once the Sox took a commanding 6-0 lead in Game 6 Wednesday night, she began texting her boss from her seat in right field, staking her claim to work the victory parade.

A duck boat driver since 2002, McKinnon had worked the two previous Red Sox rolling rallies through fan-lined city streets, and she was primed to have another front-row seat to the celebration.

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“I’m sure it will be a huge crowd,” she said Friday, counting down the hours until the parade. “Everything the city has gone through this year, a World Series is pretty wonderful.”

Driving in the victory parade, soaking up the deafening cheers, is a thrill, she said.

“It’s Fenway times 1,000,” she said. “I couldn’t be more excited, like a kid on Christmas morning.”

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Predictably, drivers at Boston Duck Tours are quick to volunteer for the plum shift and are chosen by seniority and schedule. Then the horse-trading begins. Only two dozen of more than 50 drivers are chosen.

“It’s a lot of drama,” said Boston Duck Tours’ chief executive Cindy Brown. “People get left off, and they’re sad.”

No first-year drivers are allowed, Brown said. Even though the boats are only inching along the route, “you have precious cargo on board,” she said.

The city does not pay Boston Duck Tours for the day. Brown said the company loses “tens of thousands of dollars,” because they have to cancel their regular business during the parade, but she says advertising benefits make up for the loss.

“It’s obviously a huge honor, and we definitely appreciate the privilege,” she said.

Brown said workers have been installing 12-inch platforms on many of the Duck Boats since Wednesday to make the players more visible and removing some seats to provide more standing room.

Chris Cook, the city’s director of special events, said companies pay as much as $50,000 to sponsor the boats, helping to offset the cost of the parade, which includes police details, barricades, and audio and visual equipment.

Cook said city officials are expecting a crowd in excess of a million people along the parade route. To make sure that everyone gets a view, Jumbotrons will be installed in Copley Square and Boston Common so that fans farther from the street can see the team as the boats go by.

This will be McKinnon’s third Red Sox parade, but it is still a test of nerves, she said. The noise is nearly overwhelming, and the huge crowds allow little wiggle room.

“It’s a little nerve-racking just because the people are so close to you,” she said. “And the police officers are walking right alongside.”

After the 2007 World Series win, McKinnon, 36, drove a boat with only some mechanics on board. But in 2004, when the Red Sox won their first title in 86 years, she carried five players, including Johnny Damon and Mark Bellhorn.

“It was four hours of nonstop joy,” McKinnon said. “My ears were ringing for hours.”

Damon, among the team’s most popular players, was awed by the turnout, as were his teammates, she said.

“He just kept looking around and saying ‘I can’t believe this,’ ” she recalled. “They were just as overwhelmed as the rest of us.”

McKinnon had brought her camera, and with Damon sitting nearby, she asked Red Sox player David McCarty if he might take a quick picture of them together. Glad to, he said.

“They were all the sweetest,” she said.

McKinnon does not know who she will drive Saturday. In an ideal world, it would be Papi and Pedroia, she says. But she is not picky.

“I may have office staff — I don’t care,” she said, “just happy to be a part of it.”

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com.
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