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Thousands cheer Patriots at parade in Boston

(Boston Globe) Undaunted by the cold and by snow-piled streets, thousands of New England Patriots fans cheered as the team rolled through Boston in a parade celebrating the team’s improbable, last-minute victory in the Super Bowl. By Scott LaPierre
(Boston Globe) Undaunted by the cold and by snow-piled streets, thousands of New England Patriots fans cheered as the team rolled through Boston in a parade celebrating the team’s improbable, last-minute victory in the Super Bowl. By Scott LaPierre

Tens of thousands of jubilant New England Patriots fans, enduring the winter chill and overcoming transportation woes, lined streets in Boston on Wednesday to toast the triumphant Super Bowl champions with a confetti-filled celebration.

Clad in the jerseys of their favorite players and wearing pompom Patriots winter hats, a sea of bundled fans filled the sidewalks along Boylston Street. They roared their approval as the team rolled by aboard a fleet of duck boats, a euphoric Boston sports tradition that never dims.

“The more the better,” said Mickey Wheeler, a longtime Patriots fan who watched the rally with the throngs on Boylston Street in the Back Bay.

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The celebration of the team’s fourth title was all the sweeter, Wheeler and other fans said, because of the Patriots’ stirring comeback and improbable last-minute victory over the Seattle Seahawks, just when all hope seemed lost.

“It was horrible deja vu,” she said, referring to the team’s heartbreaking Super Bowl losses in 2008 and 2012. “Then incredible joy.”

Despite concerns that a large rally soon after two major snowstorms would create gridlock at the expense of ordinary citizens, the parade did not cause widespread disruptions — although many fans experienced significant delays getting to Boston.

“I think absolutely they should have had the parade,” said Jake Welsh, dressed in a faded 2002 Brady jersey, who trekked from Maine aboard an Amtrak train with his family. “This is New England.”

The rally drew old and young, fans who had rooted for the team since the AFL days in the 1960s to children who had not been born when the Patriots won their last championship a decade ago. Parents decided school could wait a day.

“It was my idea,” said Maureen Lennon, who brought her four children from Franklin to watch near Copley Square. “But they still cleaned their rooms.”

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Nearby, fans climbed onto snowbanks for a better view, and parents hoisted children upon their shoulders. Strangers high-fived as if the game had just ended, and chants of “Brady! Brady!” filled the air.

“It’s amazing,” said Wilshon Changasie, a cardiovascular technician at Tufts who had walked to the corner of Boylston and Tremont during his lunch break, in his scrubs. “They’re congratulating us while we’re congratulating them.”

The crowd reserved its loudest roars for quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, but also thundered approval for cornerback Malcolm Butler, a little-known rookie who saved the victory with a brilliant goal-line interception.

“There’s the guy who won the game! There’s the guy who won the game!” said Brian Devault of Millbury.

In Copley Square, a group of college students celebrated atop a high snowbank when Butler waved to the crowd, bowing to him in a show of gratitude.

“Butler!” they screamed as they pumped their fists. “Malcolm Butler!”

Dance music blared, the End Zone Militia fired their muskets, and red, white, and blue confetti fluttered in the air. Players, team officials, and their families took pictures of the teeming crowd, and the crowd responded in kind.

The route, about 1½ miles long, ran from the Prudential Tower down Boylston Street to Tremont Street, where it turned toward City Hall Plaza.

The MBTA had far more trains operating than on Tuesday, when the cold and snow conspired to take a vast number of cars out of service, and the commuter rail was able to withstand an estimated increase of 10,000 to 15,000 passengers Wednesday.

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City officials did not provide a crowd estimate, but numbers appeared much lighter than past championship parades. Some fans were surprised they could secure a front-row spot, even after the parade had begun.

Boston police said the crowds were “respectful, responsible, and celebratory.” On Twitter, Police Commissioner William Evans said fans were “behaving like champions.” Only one arrest was reported, for a man charged with public drinking.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh — who watched the celebration from a balcony overlooking City Hall Plaza — had faced some public criticism for going forward with the parade despite the conditions. On Wednesday, he stood by his decision.

“The only people questioning me are the press . . . and a few people that probably don’t live in Boston,” Walsh said. “This is what we do. If we’re going to not have a parade because people complain to me, it’s not going to work.’’

After the parade, team owner Robert Kraft thanked the fans for their support despite difficult conditions, and said he was amazed by the size of the crowd.

“I wouldn’t have believed it, and it really picked up our whole team,” he said. “They’re part of our family and they gave us great strength.”

Realizing the trip would likely be difficult, many fans set out early. Brenda Fonseca drove in two hours of stop-and-go traffic from Taunton to pay tribute to her beloved Patriots. It was where she belonged, she said.

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“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” she said.

Noah LeBel, an 18-year-old from Webster, traveled two hours to Boston with his friends. It was worth every second, he said.

“It’s just awesome,’’ he said, as the duck boats rolled by City Hall Plaza, the final stop. “This is our home team, and they are the champs.”

For Betsy Farrington of Canton, the day began early. She arrived at the corner of Boylston and Tremont streets at 8 a.m., her two nephews and her niece in tow. It was more than three hours before the rally, but she did not want to take any chances.

“We wanted our front-row spot,” she said.

Her nephews, Jacob and Zack Holyoke, had taken the day off from school, and were both excited to see Gronkowski, their favorite.

“Every time he gets the ball, he decks everyone,” Jacob said.

When the duck boats arrived, fans sang along to Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” as the cheerleaders passed by, then roared for Brady.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who scored the game-winning touchdown, then jumped onto the top of his duck boat, spreading his arms wide to embrace the crowd’s joy.

On Copley Square, a man in his 70s watched from the sidewalk, a bit removed from the crowd. He still could not fully believe the Patriots had won, he said, shaking his head. It was the kind of game people would remember for years.

“Same goes for this team,” he said.

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Eric Moskowitz, Billy Baker, Steve Annear, Andrew Ryan, and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com.