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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Swifties rally for Kansas City in Westerly

    Kayley Burkholder, of Westerly, takes a selfie with her daughters, Aria, 7, center, and Savannah, 8, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, during the Swifties Rally for KC at the United Theatre in Westerly. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Adelaide Gruczka, 2, of West Kingston, R.I., is held by her mother, Elizabeth, while she receives a friendship bracelet from Savanna Pollock Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, during the Swifties Rally for KC at the United Theatre in Westerly. Pollock, an employee of the theatre, said the friendship bracelets are mentioned in a lyric of Taylor Swift’s song “You’re on Your Own, Kid.” (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Westerly ― Taylor Swift was up in the air somewhere between Japan and the United States as revelers converged Saturday at the United Theatre for a celebration of the pop culture phenomenon that is the superstar and the tight end.

    Swift was fighting a punishing concert schedule and a marathon flight to get to Las Vegas to watch boyfriend Travis Kelce play in Super Bowl LVIII for the Kansas City Chiefs.

    The “Swifties Rally for K.C.” at the United was held while fans awaited the game, featuring the Chiefs versus the San Francisco 49ers, and Swift’s arrival stateside.

    Among them were grandmothers, mothers and daughters bonding over an artist seen as a positive influence by the older generations. For those who look up to her, she is larger than life yet relatable.

    Savannah Burkholder, a third-grade student at Dunn’s Corners Elementary School in Westerly, was there with her sister Aria, a second grader, in matching “I hope Taylor Swift’s boyfriend’s team wins the game” sweatshirts.

    Their mother, Kaley Burkholder, was supportive.

    “They bullied me into becoming a Swiftie,” she said. “She was everywhere. It was kind of hard not to like her.”

    Asked to describe the star’s appeal, Savannah said “she’s got good music and she’s pretty.”

    Aria put it this way: “She looks happy.”

    The singer’s whirlwind week began with her 13th Grammy win last Sunday for album of the year. She then performed four shows at the Tokyo Dome before hopping on her private jet to make it back to cheer on Kelce.

    Swift’s race against the clock was expected to take her across nine time zones and the International Date Line over an estimated 12 hours, according to the Associated Press.

    In a boon for the Women in STEM movement, young Swifties the world over discovered the importance of math as they worked through the real-life word problem to determine if their beloved icon could make it back to American soil for kickoff at 3:30 p.m. local time.

    United Theatre media relations director Tim Cotter, former executive editor at The Day, said the event was a way to stick up for Swift and her favorite team. He said it’s unfortunate she’s been criticized by NFL fans who think the game suffers when television cameras pan to her repeatedly.

    "With all the pushback Taylor has been getting for simply supporting her boyfriend and enjoying football games, we decided to rally behind her and her favorite team,” he said. “Taylor is a friend of The United and it's the least we could do for a friend.”

    Cotter declined to specify the nature of the friendship between the theater and the pop star.

    The United showed the "Taylor Swift: ERAS Tour" movie over several weeks and held three Taylor-themed parties. The theater is planning another party when her new album, "The Tortured Poets Department," is released April 19.

    Swift’s local ties are buoyed in Watch Hill, where she owns the mansion built in 1930 by the Harkness family of Standard Oil fame. It was home for almost three decades to philanthropist Rebekah Harkness, an eccentric socialite known for hosting spectacular parties and dancing to her own tune.

    Swift bought the place in 2013, reportedly paying $17.75 million in cash, before immortalizing Harkness in “The Last Great American Dynasty” from the album Folklore.

    Amanda Edwards of Westerly arrived in a purple and green sequined jacket with a bag of friendship bracelets. The bracelets are made to be traded among fans, but Edwards said she gives away many more than she gets in return.

    The bracelets ― made with beads spelling out song titles, lyrics and inside jokes ― were popularized following the release of Swift’s “You’re On Your Own, Kid” with its directive to “make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it.”

    She showed one silver bracelet with the letters LGAD on it, a reference to the song about Harkness.

    The Westerly native who’s “never lived anywhere else” said Swift’s Rhode Island residence makes her feel connected to the star.

    She recounted seeing Swift’s movie six times at the United Theatre.

    “We were just screaming and singing the entire time,” she said of the final showing. “We lost our voices.”

    Elizabeth Gruczka of West Kingston came out with daughter Adelaide, 2, to support the theater and the performer she described as “a great inspiration for young girls.”

    Adelaide, sporting a Chiefs sweatshirt and silver leggings, shook a red and white pom pom as songs like “Cruel Summer” and “Look What you Made Me Do” played in the background.

    Gruczka said her interest in Taylor Swift coincided with Adelaide’s arrival.

    “I had a daughter and got into pink things, and purple things, and Taylor Swift,” she said.

    e.regan@theday.com

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