This has been an astonishing week for Kansas City. On Sunday the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. It had been 30 years since the Royals last won a World Series, and on Tuesday Kansas City celebrated with a parade and rally in their honor. The public schools closed for the day. So did local colleges and many small businesses. By 8:30 a.m. the streets of Kansas City were filling with cars going downtown to the parade scheduled for noon. As I was heading out to it shortly before, I heard 400,000 people were congregated near Union Station, the site of the 2 p.m. rally. A little later the number rose to 500,000. Eventually, Kansas City Mayor Sly James estimated that 800,000 people attended the victory celebration. To put this number into perspective, the metro area had a population of 2 million people in the metro area, and only 470,000 in Kansas City.
A Canadian friend who has lived in Kansas City for 20 years picked me up in her car. “You won’t believe what you’re going to see,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in North America.”
“You’d think the pope had come to town,” said bystander Tim Higdon.
The weather was warm and sunny, the crowds were cheerful, the city transformed by the huge influx of people into a much denser metropolis, one resembling its rival in the World Series, New York.
The car is king in Kansas City, which sprawls for miles on both sides of the state line dividing Kansas and Missouri. Unlike New Yorkers, people in Kansas City do not walk long distances along city streets to get from one place to the next. Nor do many of them take public buses, which travel the main thoroughfares half empty. But the buses were free in honor of the Royals’ win and people were lined up for blocks to board them, aware of the huge traffic jam they would find themselves in if they drove. Even with thousands queuing to ride the buses, traffic was bumper to bumper. Many people walked to the parade route downtown from the Country Club Plaza, an open-air shopping district and mid-town landmark five miles away.
It was on the plaza, right where you turn the corner at the large equestrienne fountain on J.C. Nichols Parkway now spouting blue water for the occasion, that I first saw the streams of people walking down Main Street. There were young people, there were older people, there were families, including lots of small children wearing crown hats perched on their fathers’ shoulders, and they were all walking purposefully. There were great numbers of them heading north on both sidewalks along the street. The circumstances could not have been more different, but the sheer multitude of people made me think of the Syrian refugees walking through Europe to Germany.
“It was this unusual mass migration of humanity,” said Eric Wynkoop, a Kansas City investment advisor.
The Royals being in the World Series last year and winning it this year have united the city like nothing I can remember. Part of it was just winning, the exhilaration of having a successful team after decades in which the Royals went nowhere. Part of it was the team itself, one which exemplified grit and spirit and a one-for-all and all-for-one spirit that Kansas Citians couldn’t help but admire and cheer.
“There were no super stars,” Wynkoop said. “The super star was the team itself.”
A home-grown team whose players came up through the minor leagues and who continually came from behind even in the last game of the World Series proved irresistibly winning. Even I, someone who rarely watches sports, caught the contagion. It’s true my life as a fan has been brief: a week last year when the Royals were in the Series and another 10 days this year. But if I can be converted into a fan, anyone can.
I didn’t see much of the parade or of the rally. I doubt many people who came out for them did. The crowds were too thick. I had to turn on the TV at home later to see the baseball players and hear their remarks. But I wasn’t sorry I’d gone. Seeing that many people on the move was a spectacle, and in this case a happy one.
A carpenter from Olathe, Kan., who took his young family to the celebration said what amazed him was not only the enormous number of people who turned out to support the Royals but how well people behaved. “Usually, you get that many people together and something is going to come along,” said Matt Boyd.
Ferguson, Mo., on the other side of the state comes to mind. But while protests and riots aren’t unthinkable here, a remarkable spirit of fraternity reigned in Kansas City on Tuesday. Young and old, black and white, city-dwellers and suburbanites came together to celebrate their team and their city. At the end of the day, police reported just three arrests.
The Royals’ win on Sunday was exhilarating; the celebration of it on Tuesday was astounding. It was a great day for the city. I doubt I’ll see another like it in my lifetime. “As good as it gets” is a phrase that comes to mind. Civic pride and harmony scored a 10.