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Spreading fun around on Patriots Day

A man dressed as a woman in patriotic colors cheered along the Marathon route in Natick. A man dressed as a woman in patriotic colors cheered along the Marathon route in Natick. (Essdras M. Suarez/ Globe Staff)
By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / April 19, 2011

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A mile past the finish line for the 115th Boston Marathon, Chris Vlahakis planted a red beach chair yesterday on the cobblestones outside Faneuil Hall and waited for the first big crowds of the season.

“This is when it starts,’’ said Vlahakis, 42, a street artist who sketches caricatures for tourists stumbling along the Freedom Trail.

“It’s better than Memorial Day,’’ said street vendor Michael Goyette, 57, as he twisted a pink balloon into a dog.

Patriots Day means more than just runners, Red Sox, and Revolutionary War reenactors. Boston swelled yesterday with thousands of people freed from the shackles of work and school and energized by crisp spring sunshine. Streets and trolleys teemed with crowds that rival St. Patrick’s Day, but without the bloodshot eyes.

“It’s friendly frenetic,’’ said Leslie Hill, 30, of Kansas City, standing elbow-to-elbow in a Green Line car stalled beneath Boylston Street.

The long-awaited warm weather made it feel like Opening Day for spring. Hordes lined the Marathon route and crammed into a rare morning game at Fenway Park, where fans ravenous for lunch typically order so many Fenway Franks that ballpark vendors have taken to calling the annual rite “Hot-dog Christmas.’’

It was a day to hike through the Arnold Arboretum, stroll along the Charles River Esplanade, and laze like Louisa Michl, 23, in the grass at the edge of the pond in the Public Garden.

“It was such a long winter,’’ said Michl as a Swan Boat eased by. “People are out and about and enjoying life.’’

But it was more than the weather. Patriots Day gives many residents a day off, and the Marathon draws spectators from across the globe.

“Even though Boston’s a little city, today it has a worldly feel,’’ said Rachel Dorf-Caine, 24, of Somerville.

Back near Faneuil Hall, a large crowd watched two acrobats perform. Nearby, Kara Yang, 25, of Chelsea posed with two Revolutionary War reenactors, holding a sword aloft.

“As a Patriot, you are one step short of being a rock star,’’ said Denis Cormier, 51, of the Seventh Massachusetts Regiment. “Patriots Day is all about here.’’

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com.

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