Prayer candles decorated with the faces of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift look out of store windows. Leaders' flags flutter from the windows of cars driving down the highways. Red clothes seem to be mandatory.
Kansas City, Missouri has lost its mind, and thankfully, it has lost its mind.
The beloved Chiefs head to the Super Bowl on Sunday, the team's fourth trip in five years. This time, what sent the usually down-to-earth city into a state of ecstasy was the flamboyant presence of Ms. Swift, who since last summer has been dating Mr. Kelce, the Chiefs' star tight end, a regular fixture at Kansas City football games and restaurants and a $6 million Mr. Kelsey castle In the suburbs.
Most important in the minds of Kansas City residents is the Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers. But they are bewildered by out-of-game possibilities.
Could Kansas City, a place often left out of the national conversation, see its fortunes and economy rebound because of Ms. Swift? Are the couple considering engagement, as many residents hope?
Could the most famous woman in the world really be moving to the Midwest, a region that people on the coasts frequently (and unfairly) portray as a vast, amorphous mass of blandness?
“Kansas City has needed this attraction for a while,” said Diana Martin, 75, of Olathe, Kan., as she strolled through Kansas City with her husband, Don, this week. “It will bring youth.”
“They seem like a great couple,” said Mr. Martin, 76, who was dressed as a president. “He added something special to everything about the Super Bowl.”
Within months, the city's identity — often associated with an abundance of excellent barbecue restaurants — became startlingly intertwined with Ms. Swift, who grew up in Pennsylvania and Tennessee and owns… Properties Including a penthouse apartment in New York City.
In schools across the Kansas City metropolitan area this week, Super Bowl celebrations included “Travis and Taylor Tuesday,” when thousands of students arrived at elementary and middle schools dressed in costumes, wearing No. 87 jerseys, sequined pink skirts and friendship bracelets. On their wrists.
Suburban parents talk about which schools Swift Kelsey's hypothetical offspring might attend. Carla Bryan, a season ticket holder who has a room in her home in Blue Springs, Missouri, devoted to Chiefs equipment, spoke of Mr. Kelce with some protection, as if he were a favored nephew.
“I've never seen him so happy,” she said. “I just want him to put a ring on it, get it done, and get that little Taylorite and Travesite.”
Small businesses in Kansas City have been enjoying the craze, selling custom merchandise that exploits the relationship between Ms. Swift and Mr. Kelsey.
“We can't keep Travis and Taylor stuff in stock,” said Carrie Lindner, general manager of Made in KC, standing amid displays of jewelry, clothing and baseball caps. (One example: A pink and cream T-shirt that says “It's a Kansas City Love Story: Ty and Trav.”)
Hotels in the Kansas City area are full this weekend, even though the Super Bowl is being held in Las Vegas. Angie Brock, sales and marketing coordinator at the Phillips Hotel, said she expects the downtown area to be packed with soccer 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 city's assumption that the Chiefs will be the ones to lead the victory parade.
It all adds to the sense that Kansas City, home to just over half a million people, is becoming more nationally visible, something that excites 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 ease of getting around. (It also served to distract attention from some of the city's entrenched problems, including a high homicide rate that has defied a 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 great things happening here.”
At a Rotary Club event in Kansas City on Monday, members couldn't stop talking about the Super Bowl. “They were amazed by the high level of community spirit, the sense of possibility, and their pride in Kansas City,” said Vivian Jennings, a longtime area resident who has owned a bookstore in suburban Fairway, Kansas, for nearly half a century. Until last year.
Also discussed at the meeting: the immediate joy derived 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 the win.
“It was a lot of fun to hang out with people and talk about it, because I usually talk about books,” Jennings said.
At the very least, shedding light on Kansas City may finally clarify an often murky issue.
Bethan Rutten, a Kansas City native who now lives in San Antonio, traveled to the city on Sunday and was upset to hear a flight attendant mix up two Kansas cities — one in Missouri and a smaller one across the state line in Kansas.
“When we landed, he said, ‘Welcome to Kansas,’ even though we were in Missouri,” Wroten said. “And I was looking around and thinking, 'No one is correcting him!'
“Taylor will probably put Kansas City on the map,” she said.
Even Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas has noticed something different recently in his interactions with people outside the Midwest.
Lucas said that during a recent trip to France to meet with other officials, a woman working for the French government approached him.
“She said, ‘I have to say, my daughters were really interested in having the mayor of Kansas City here in Paris, because they’re big Taylor Swift fans,’” Lucas said in an interview in his wood-paneled office. .
“This is the first year I've been to different conference meetings where people say, 'Kansas City is kind of a 'city' town,'' he said.
Mr Lucas, a lifelong Chiefs fan, visited a primary school this week to talk to students about what the duties of mayor entail.
“Nothing I do is interesting until I say, 'I've met the Chiefs,'” he said, telling the kids he knew the team's quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and Mr. Kelce.
“They were like, ‘Awesome!’” he recalls. “Then I said, ‘But I haven’t met Taylor Swift.’”
The children groaned in unison.
“Infuriatingly humble web fan. Writer. Alcohol geek. Passionate explorer. Evil problem solver. Incurable zombie expert.”