Seeing Taylor Swift on Halloween in Tampa a treat for fans

Ocala sisters Andrea Castelli, 22, center, and Melina Castelli, 21, right, cheer during a costume contest before the show.
Ocala sisters Andrea Castelli, 22, center, and Melina Castelli, 21, right, cheer during a costume contest before the show.
Published Nov. 1, 2015

TAMPA — Thousands of kids from Tampa Bay and beyond couldn't go door-to-door to ask for candy this Halloween, many for the first time in their lives.

This wasn't a trick but the greatest treat of all: Taylor Swift was in town.

As 12-year-old Alex Bush of Lakeland eloquently put it: "I can take some of my brother's."

Swift closed out the North American leg of her 1989 World Tour in front of about 55,000 people Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium. The event was also easily the largest costume party in Tampa.

Despite the late-October afternoon Florida heat, a large swath of Swift's fans — Swifties, as they call themselves — waited for hours outside the gates in elaborate costumes, many of them Swift-themed.

Two girls dressed as giant feet with lightning bolts, a reference to a lyric in Swift's megahit Shake it Off. Several groups posed as Swift and her friends in the popular music video for Bad Blood. There were too many Olivia Bensons — Swift's cat, named after the Law and Order: Special Victims Unit character — to count.

But the motivation to dress up went beyond just being festive. Many people were angling to get seen by Swift's team in hopes of winning upgraded tickets or a chance to meet the pop queen herself. Swift is known to provide those perks during her tours.

The move has clearly worked for Swift, not only for getting people excited well before she even takes the stage, but for generating a lot of goodwill among her legion of followers. Many see the gesture as a reflection of who she is as a person. Outside Raymond James, her fans, from locals to from as far away as Brazil, described her as genuine, kind and down-to-earth.

"I like that she can be a good role model for people of all ages," said 9-year-old Madison Huff of Wesley Chapel. "She doesn't let the fame take over and she is the same person she was when she started. Just maybe with a bigger house."

Madison's mother, Steph Huff, agreed with her daughter.

"I love that I can bring her and create these memories," she said. "And let's face it: I enjoy it too."

Swift has also created a lot of buzz on her 1989 tour by bringing special guests on stage for most of the 63 North American shows. On Saturday evening, everyone was guessing who might join her in Tampa. Calvin Harris? Ed Sheeran? Emma Watson?

It's one of the reasons for the success of her tour, which can be measured by the cost of a ticket to Saturday's concert on secondary market sites like StubHub. According to data provided by the site, the average ticket sold for $245, and one ticket for a floor section close to the stage sold for more than $3,000.

Tampa was the 1989 tour's fifth highest selling stop on StubHub.

Samantha Rose, sisters Amanda and Emily Eukovich and their cousin Stephanie Eukovich bought their tickets for Saturday's show last year. In fact, they were so excited they knew the exact date: Nov. 14, 2014.

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Dressed in homemade costumes depicting each of Swift's last four albums, the foursome of young adults was happy they didn't have to spend a month of rent on a ticket. Their floor seats cost about $150.

While young girls and their parents were prevalent, their were also many millennials like Rose and the Eukovich women who have listened to Swift since she came onto the scene with her 2006 self-titled album, as well as fans of every age and demographic who enjoy Swift's brand of pop-country fusion.

Missy Johns of Prattville, Ala., arrived at 3 a.m. in Tampa with her 9-year-old daughter Kayla, and was looking forward to taking her daughter to her first concert. But she wasn't hiding her own excitement.

"I just think she's great," she said. "I just use the kids as an excuse to see her."

And Kayla? She didn't care about the candy she was missing out on.

"I already got candy," she said. "This is Taylor."

Contact Steve Contorno at Follow @scontorno.