WASHINGTON – When the Democrats descend on Boston for their national convention this month, there will be no escaping the Kennedys.
A tribute to family patriarch Ted, the dedication of a memorial to Rose and a remembrance of Bobby as well as the attendance of A-list movie and music stars could overshadow JFK - Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry.
The purpose of the four-day convention is to hail Kerry, the state's junior senator, and crown him as the Democratic Party's nominee. But Edward Kennedy (search), the state's senior senator, generations of his family and their legacy loom large.
"Many of the convention events are going to be at the Kennedy Library, you're going to drive down John F. Kennedy Boulevard, you're going to pass in front of the John F. Kennedy courthouse and look at the statue of John F. Kennedy in front of the statehouse," said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., a close Kennedy friend. "For modern Democrats, you can't dissociate the city of Boston, the state of Massachusetts and the Kennedy family."
Determined to undercut any notion of a Kennedy-fest, Sen. Edward Kennedy said on Thursday, through a spokesman, "this is John Kerry's convention from start to finish."
By sheer numbers, the Kennedys will be omnipresent. Kennedy is expecting more than 100 family members to attend the convention beginning July 26, and about 100 rooms have been reserved for them at a single hotel.
He expects his niece, Maria Shriver (search), but not her husband, California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), who is scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention in New York in August.
Kennedy will address the Democratic convention in prime time on the second night, and then head to a tribute at Symphony Hall honoring his more than four decades of public service. Headliners for the salute include U2's Bono, composer and former Boston Pops conductor John Williams and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
"Boston is home to our family," Kennedy said in a recent interview. "It's a wonderful thing to get a chance to have the Democratic Party, which has been an instrument for social change and economic progress, to come there and nominate a native son. All the stars have lined up."
On the first day, Kennedy family and friends will gather near Boston's North End for the formal dedication of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a 30-acre stretch of parkland that will wind through downtown Boston atop the old Central Artery highway. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy died in January 1995 at the age of 104.
On the first night, the Kennedy family will attend a star-studded cocktail reception and fund-raiser for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, a nonprofit organization named after the former attorney general and New York senator who was assassinated after winning the California Democratic presidential primary in 1968.
Tickets to the invitation-only event at the Boston College Club range from $1,000 to $50,000, with some 300 to 400 guests expected. Among the celebrities on the guest list are actresses Meg Ryan, Demi Moore and Susan Sarandon, and recent Oscar winner Tim Robbins.
Kerry is an honorary chairman of the event.
Democrats are quick to emphasize that the convention is all about nominating Kerry as the challenger to President Bush and energizing the party faithful for the Nov. 2 election. They argue that the Kennedy events will not overshadow the White House candidate.
"It's a big convention, a big party," said Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan. "We have a lot of great friends who will be there to nominate John Kerry. It's John Kerry's hometown, and Senator Kennedy's hometown — there will be a lot of energy and excitement."
Smaller but no less exclusive events include a luncheon on the third day hosted by Kennedy and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., for senators and their families at the JFK Library. Kennedy's wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, will host a luncheon on the second day for Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of the candidate.
The prospect of the Kennedys in the spotlight at the convention is welcome news to the Republicans. Through the years, GOP candidates have used Edward Kennedy's image to raise money and energize conservative voters.
"This presents an opportunity to showcase the fact that Ted Kennedy is the conservative senator from Massachusetts," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson. "And if Ted Kennedy is the icon of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, John Kerry's voting record is even more out of the mainstream."