Kansas City Chiefs fans are among the tens of thousands of people pouring into South Florida this week, joining Midwest expats already here for a celebration of the team’s first Super Bowl appearance in half a century.
Friends Duane Brock and Brian Blanchard traveled from Kansas City to Miami to enjoy the pre-Super Bowl festivities.
“I’m a 28-year season ticket holder with the Chiefs, and I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said Brock, who lives in Overland Park, Kansas. “We’re just at an all-time high.”
Blanchard, of Gladstone, Missouri, remembers the last time the Chiefs went to the Super Bowl — in 1970.
“It’s been a long dry spell,” he said. “We’re ready to win.”
A weeklong fan fest
In Miami, Super Bowl LIV isn’t just a face off between the Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, or even the halftime show (Jennifer Lopez and Shakira). It’s a weeklong festival of football fandom. Many visitors come for only the events surrounding the game at Hard Rock Stadium, given that ticket prices are up into the thousands.
Throughout the week, fans flocked to the Super Bowl Experience event at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which offered activities like a 40-yard dash and signing events with players.
There were also photo opportunities. Some people waited in line for up to two hours to pose with the Vince Lombardi trophy, which will be awarded to Sunday's winner.
Kyle Callaway is from St. Joseph, Missouri, and now lives about three hours north of Miami. He stopped to pose with a mannequin dressed in a Chiefs uniform. He said he remembers going to a Chiefs game as a teenager. On the 10-degree day, his nachos were too cold to eat.
Sunday, he’ll be rooting for the Chiefs from his warmer new home in Melbourne, Florida.
“We’re going to get a nice little party together — maybe get some nachos this time that I can eat,” he said, laughing.
Ryan Turner moved from Florida to Iowa City, Iowa, with his family of four about a decade ago. He wanted to adopt a Midwestern team and liked the Chiefs’ colors. His two young sons were decked out in Patrick Mahomes jerseys.
Josh Turner, 12, was looking forward to the stadium-shaped display his mom was planning to fill with snacks for the game: popcorn, M&M’s and “puppy chow,” a concoction of Chex Mix, peanut butter and powdered sugar.
A smoky taste of home
Another Super Bowl event in the works for Chiefs fans in Miami is being put on by an Overland Park native who is now a chef and owns four restaurants.
When the Chiefs won the AFC Championship game earlier this month, and his team's trip to the Super Bowl became official, Brad Kilgore sprang into action.
The win changed his week from “just a busy, fun week here in Miami to maybe the most important week I’ve had since my wedding,” he said.
Kilgore is helping to organize a free block party outside his restaurant Ember in midtown Miami. An outdoor plaza will be covered in AstroTurf, complete with yard lines. There'll be a large screen to watch the game on;; chances to throw footballs and bean bags for prizes; a raffle and more photo opportunities — this time with an oversized helmet.
Kilgore designed the menu to appeal to a crowd of Chiefs fans. And, of course, it features Kansas City barbecue and Boulevard beer.
He’ll also be serving a 60-ounce bone-in Tomahawk steak with a special twist to honor Mahomes.
“We’re gonna serve it with ketchup, just like Patrick wants,” Kilgore said, “and call it the Tom-Mahomes ribeye.”
Jessica Bakeman is a reporter covering education for WLRN, South Florida's NPR affiliate. You can follow her on Twitter @jessicabakeman.