Prayer candles adorned with the faces of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift look out from the shop windows. Chiefs flags fly from the windows of cars driving on the roads. Red clothing seems to be mandatory.
Kansas City, Missouri, has lost its mind, and thankfully so.
His beloved Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl on Sunday, the team’s fourth trip in five years. This time, what has propelled a normally down-to-earth city into a heightened state of euphoria is the shining presence of Swift, who since last summer has been dating Kelce, the Chiefs’ star tight end, and occupying a regular spot at football games, restaurants in Kansas City and $6 million from Mr. Kelce Mansion in the suburbs.
Top of mind for Kansas City residents is a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers. But they are tormented by possibilities beyond the game.
Could Kansas City, a place often left out of the national conversation, see its fortunes and economy boosted thanks to Ms. Swift? Is the couple considering getting engaged, as many residents hope?
Could the most famous woman in the world move to the Midwest, a region that coastal people often (and unfairly) portray as a vast, amorphous mass of blandness?
“Kansas City has needed this push for a while,” beamed Deanna Martin, 75, of Olathe, Kansas, as she strolled through Kansas City with her husband, Don, this week. “It will attract young people.”
“They seem like a wonderful couple,” said Martin, 76, who was wearing a Chiefs uniform. “He’s just added something very special to the whole Super Bowl thing.”
In a matter of months, the city’s identity (most commonly tied to its abundance of excellent barbecue restaurants) has become dizzyingly intertwined with Ms. Swift, who grew up in Pennsylvania and Tennessee and owns properties including a penthouse in New York City.
In schools across the Kansas City metro area this week, Super Bowl festivities included “Travis and Taylor Tuesday,” when thousands of students came to elementary and middle schools in costume, wearing T-shirts with the number “87.” ”, pink sequined skirts and friendship bracelets. on their wrists.
Suburban parents talk about which schools Swift-Kelce’s hypothetical children might attend. Carla Bryan, a season-ticket holder who has a room in her Blue Springs, Missouri, home dedicated to Chiefs gear, spoke of Kelce with some protection, as if he were her favorite nephew.
“I’ve never seen him so happy,” she said. “I just want him to put the ring on it and do it and have those little Taylorettes and Travisettes.”
Small businesses in Kansas City have reveled in the frenzy, selling personalized products that play on the relationship between Swift and Kelce.
“We can’t keep stock of Travis and Taylor products,” said Kari Lindner, CEO of Made in KC, as she stood among displays of trinkets, clothing and baseball caps. (An example: a pink and cream T-shirt that said “It’s a KC Love Story: Tay and Trav.”)
Hotels in the Kansas City area are filling up for this weekend, even though the Super Bowl is being played in Las Vegas. Angie Brock, sales and marketing coordinator at the Phillips Hotel, said she expected the town center to be packed with football fans and Swifties, including many women who were only mildly interested in the game before Ms Swift became part of the fun. .
“We’re all wondering if Taylor will be in the Super Bowl parade,” said Brock, who shares the widespread assumption around town that it will be the Chiefs who will lead the victory parade.
It all adds to the sense that Kansas City, home to just over half a million people, is becoming more visible nationally, exciting residents and city officials.
Maybe now that Swift is connected to the city, they say, more people will discover its museums, low cost of living and easy commutes. (It has also provided a distraction from some of the city’s entrenched problems, including a high homicide rate that has defied the national downward trend.)
“Kansas City is growing,” Brock said. “We’re not New York or Chicago, but we’re getting there. “We are showing people that interesting things are happening here.”
At a Rotary Club event in Kansas City on Monday, members couldn’t stop talking about the Super Bowl. They marveled at the high level of community spirit, the sense of possibility and their pride in Kansas City, said Vivien Jennings, a longtime area resident and owner of a bookstore in the suburb of Fairway, Kansas, for nearly half a century. . , until last year.
Also discussed at the meeting: the secondhand joy that comes from seeing Swift jumping in a luxury box at Chiefs games, Jennings added, and the couple’s “victory kisses” after a win.
“It’s been really fun to hang out with people and talk about it, because I usually talk about books,” Ms. Jennings said.
At the very least, attention on Kansas City could eventually clarify a commonly confusing issue.
Bethann Roten, a Kansas City native who now lives in San Antonio, flew into the city on Sunday and was upset to hear a flight attendant mix up the two Kansas City cities: one in Missouri and the smaller one just across the state line in Kansas.
“When we landed, he said, ‘Welcome to Kansas,’ even though we were in Missouri,” Ms. Roten said. “And I was looking around, thinking: no one is correcting him!”
“Maybe Taylor will put Kansas City on the map,” he said.
Even Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas has noticed something different lately in his interactions with people outside the Midwest.
On a recent trip to France to meet with other officials, Lucas said, he was approached by a woman who worked for the French government.
“She said, ‘I have to say, my daughters were really interested in the mayor of Kansas City being here in Paris, because they’re big fans of Taylor Swift,'” Lucas said in an interview in her wood-paneled office. .
“This is the first year I’ve been to different conferences where people say, ‘Kansas City is kind of a hip city,’” he said.
Lucas, a lifelong Chiefs fan, visited an elementary school this week to talk to students about what the duties of a mayor entail.
“Nothing I do is interesting until I say, ‘I know the Chiefs,’” he said, telling the kids that he knew both the team’s quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and Mr. Kelce.
“They said, ‘Great!’” he recalled. “So I was like, ‘But I don’t know Taylor Swift.'”
The children moaned in unison.