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WUSF's coverage of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Feb. 7, 2021.

Despite The Pandemic, Many Kansas City Fans Say They're Here For The Party

two people wearing red shirts take photos of a Super Bowl Sand sculpture featuring two players, a Bucs helmet and a Chiefs helmet, and "Welcome to Clearwater Beach."
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
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Kansas City Chiefs Fans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans met on the sand of Clearwater Beach for some festivities on Saturday, the day before the big game.

Kansas City Chiefs were plentiful along the Clearwater Beach promenade Saturday. Several fans said they came for the party, but do not plan to go to the game.

Shoes off, shorts on, toes in the sand, Gary Lewis sat at the water’s edge at Clearwater Beach on Saturday morning.

A reporter wearing a mask holds a mic out to a man in a red shirt sitting on the beack without a mask.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Gary Lewis.

He flew in from Kansas City the night before, escaping the 10-degree weather with snow in the forecast.

Lewis came to see his Kansas City Chiefs play in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, but he was still looking for a ticket.

“I’m just sitting here soaking it up and enjoying it,” Lewis said of the Florida weather. “I’ve been sending everybody back home texts and everything all morning. They’re jealous, yeah, a lot of cuss words right now.”

If he can’t get into the stadium in Tampa, Lewis planned to watch the game from a nearby bar. He said that’s better than watching it at home with friends in Kansas City, where COVID-19 restrictions prohibit indoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

A Bucs flag flies in front of The Pier.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
A Buccaneers flag flies in front of Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach as Bucs and Kansas City Chiefs fans alike take to the sand and boardwalk for Super Bowl festivities.

“Our crew back home is also limited, so you can’t do a whole lot,” Lewis said. “It’s a win/win. If the Chiefs win, great. If the Buccaneers win, it’s a win in the hometown for the Super Bowl, which ought to be a pretty good party.”

Kansas City fans were well represented along the promenade at Clearwater Beach on Saturday. Like Lewis, several fans said they were in town for the party. But many said they had no intention of attending the actual game.

There were plenty of parties for them, many were in full swing on Friday night. Photos and video from Ybor City showed thousands of people packing Seventh Avenue, and only a few wearing masks. A party hosted by rapper 50 Cent in St. Petersburg drew criticism from Mayor Rick Kriseman who said the event, which was packed with maskless patrons, could be investigated for violating COVID-19 restrictions.

“This isn't how we should be celebrating the Super Bowl. It's not safe or smart. It's stupid,” Kriseman tweeted Saturday. “We're going to take a very close look at this, and it may end up costing someone a lot more than 50 cent.”

Still, despite the pandemic, more parties were planned for Saturday night. The Super Bowl is traditionally known for lavish pre-game parties where entry fees cost several thousand dollars.

A masked reporter holding a mic interviews two unmasked men, one wearing a chiefs shirt and one wearing a Trump shirt.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Jeff and Steve Stout.

The big-ticket parties are not what Steve and Jeff Stout said they were looking for. The Kansas City natives flew into Tampa Wednesday morning and were scheduled to fly out Monday. They said they are considering extending their trip due to bad weather in Missouri.

“We’re in town for the party,” said Steve Stout. who added he wasn’t surprised to see so many other like-minded fans.

"Chiefs kingdom travels,” he said.

The pair said they found a little bar south of Tampa, where they will watch the game and hang out with locals.

“I’m sure it will be more Bucs fans than Chiefs fans, but that’s all right,” Jeff Stout said.

A reporter wearing a mask and holding a mic interviews a man wearing a chiefs jersey with his mask under his chin.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
David Absent.

Damon Absent made his first trip to Florida for the Super Bowl, and was enjoying the sites on Clearwater Beach, though he said he was staying out of the water. He travelled by himself, but felt like he would have no problem making friends with all the Chiefs fans around.

“I’m a free spirit, brother. I’m out here mingling, meeting new people as I go,” Absent said. “It’s easy to make friends. When you’ve got your team riding with you and your city with you, you’re good.”

For their part, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans were trying to be hospitable.

“They’re trying to ugly up our city, man, it’s bad,” joked Wes Belcher.

But he said the greater Tampa Bay region is used to hosting fans from other teams, especially during the harsh winter months.

“It’s beautiful, why wouldn’t you be here,” Belcher said. “We don’t mind. It’s just gonna be a long ride home for them though.”

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