Welcome to Kansas City (Taylor’s Version), a City Agog Over Swift and Kelce - The World News

Welcome to Kansas City (Taylor’s Version), a City Agog Over Swift and Kelce

Prayer candles adorned with the faces of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift gaze out from shop windows. Chiefs flags flutter on car windows zipping down highways. Red clothing appears to be mandatory.

Kansas City, Mo., has lost its mind, and happily so.

Its beloved Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl on Sunday, the team’s fourth trip in five years. This time, what has propelled a usually down-to-earth city into a heightened state of euphoria is the glittery presence of Ms. Swift, who since last summer has been dating Mr. Kelce, the Chiefs’ star tight end, and occupying a regular place at football games, restaurants in Kansas City and Mr. Kelce’s $6 million mansion in the suburbs.

Most important in the minds of Kansas City residents is a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers. But they are tantalized by possibilities beyond the game.

Could Kansas City, a place that is often left out of the national conversation, see its fortunes and economy buoyed because of Ms. Swift? Is the couple considering an engagement, as many residents are hoping?

Might the most famous woman in the world actually move to the Midwest, a region that people on the coasts frequently (and unfairly) portray as a vast, amorphous blob of blandness?

“Kansas City has needed this oomph for a while,” said a beaming Deanna Martin, 75, of Olathe, Kan., as she strolled through Kansas City with her husband, Don, this week. “It will bring young people in.”

“They seem like such a wonderful couple,” said Mr. Martin, 76, who was dressed in Chiefs gear. “It’s just added something extra special to the whole Super Bowl thing.”

In a matter of months, the city’s identity — most commonly linked to its abundance of excellent barbecue restaurants — has become giddily intertwined with Ms. Swift, who grew up in Pennsylvania and Tennessee and owns properties including a penthouse apartment in New York City.

At schools across the Kansas City metropolitan area this week, festivities for the Super Bowl included “Travis and Taylor Tuesday,” when thousands of students arrived at elementary and middle schools in costume, wearing “87” jerseys, pink-sequined skirts and friendship bracelets on their wrists.

Suburban parents talk about which schools the hypothetical Swift-Kelce offspring might attend. Carla Bryan, a season-ticket holder who has a room in her home in Blue Springs, Mo., that is devoted to Chiefs gear, spoke of Mr. Kelce with a certain protectiveness, as if he were a favorite nephew.

“I’ve never seen him so happy,” she said. “I just want him to put the ring on it, and get it done, and have those little Taylorettes and Travisettes.”

Small businesses in Kansas City have been reveling in the frenzy, selling custom merchandise playing on the relationship between Ms. Swift and Mr. Kelce.

“We can’t keep Travis and Taylor stuff in stock,” said Kari Lindner, the general manager of Made in KC, as she stood amid displays of trinkets, clothing and baseball caps. (One example: a pink-and-cream T-shirt that read “It’s a KC love story: Tay & 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 for the Hotel Phillips, said that she expected the downtown area to be packed with both football fans and Swifties — including plenty of 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 at the Super Bowl parade,” said Ms. Brock, who shares the widespread presumption in the city that it will be the Chiefs who will lead the victory parade.

All of it adds up to a sense that Kansas City, home to just over half a million people, is growing more visible nationally, a thrill to residents and city officials.

Maybe now that Ms. Swift is connected to the city, they say, more people will discover its museums, low cost of living and easy commutes. (She 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,” Ms. Brock said. “We’re not New York or Chicago, but we’re getting there. We’re showing people that we have cool stuff going on here.”

At a Rotary Club event in Kansas City on Monday, members could not 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 resident of the area who owned a bookstore in the suburb of Fairway, Kan., for nearly a half-century, until last year.

Also discussed at the meeting: the secondhand joy gleaned from glimpses of Ms. Swift jumping up and down in a luxury box at Chiefs games, Ms. Jennings added, and the “victory kissing” by the couple after a victory.

“It’s been so fun to be out with people and talk about it, because normally I’m talking about books,” Ms. Jennings said.

At the very least, the spotlight on Kansas City might eventually clear up a commonly confused matter.

Bethann Roten, a Kansas City native who now lives in San Antonio, flew into the city on Sunday and was irked to hear a flight attendant mix up the two Kansas Cities — one in Missouri and the smaller one just across the state line in Kansas.

“As we landed, he said, ‘Welcome to Kansas,’ even though we were in Missouri,” Ms. Roten said. “And I was looking around, thinking, nobody’s correcting him!”

“Maybe Taylor will put Kansas City on the map,” she said.

Even the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., Quinton Lucas, has noticed something different lately in his interactions with people outside of the Midwest.

On a recent trip to France to meet with other officials, Mr. Lucas said, a woman who worked for the French government approached him.

“She said, ‘I have to say, my daughters were really interested that the mayor of Kansas City is here in Paris, because they’re huge Taylor Swift fans,’” Mr. Lucas said in an interview in his wood-paneled office.

“This is the first year when I’ve been at different conference meetings where people are like, ‘Kansas City is kind of the ‘it’ city,’” he said.

Mr. Lucas, a lifelong Chiefs fan, visited an elementary school this week to talk to students about what a mayor’s duties entail.

“Nothing I do is interesting until I say, ‘I meet the Chiefs,’” he said, telling the children that he knew both the team’s quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and Mr. Kelce.

“They were like, ‘Cool!’” he recalled. “Then I said, ‘But I have not met Taylor Swift.’”

The children groaned in unison.

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