In an alternate timeline in an alternate universe, Cincinnati, Ohio gave up a long time ago. It stopped caring and didn’t put in the effort and really just let itself go and became uninhabitable. There was a while there, too, where I think we can all agree that we came damn near that exact fate. It didn’t happen, though. And hey y’all, look at us now.
This is being written on the tailend of a weekend that should be transformative for us as not just a city, but as a community. There are those who would - and have, and do - frown upon the fact that it took someone of Taylor Swift’s status to really, truly highlight just how far this city has come. I mean, they also just kind of hate fun and don’t want anyone else to enjoy what they enjoy, but that’s beside the point. What actually happened, though, was that a light was shined on all of the incredible things this city has to offer not just to its residents, but so many others. We’ll come back to this thought momentarily, but first…
I live on the West Side of Cincy, a decent enough part of town that’s very much still trying to figure itself out, but is making progress and has become somewhere that I’m legitimately proud to call home. And we’re not within easy reach of any other part of Cincinnati. It takes time, and planning, to get somewhere. To say I was a little apprehensive about this weekend would be an understatement. I had plans to meet a friend on the opposite side of town. I was given the opportunity to review another show happening in Cincinnati on Night Two of Taylor’s Cincinnati Takeover. But to get to either of the places I needed to go, I would have to go directly towards where basically Everything Happening in Cincinnati All At Once was taking place. I wasn’t real stoked on it, but after looking at all of the preparations the city had undertaken, and some kind of weird curiosity, I decided to see how it was all working out.
Readers, I think we all owe the folks who worked so tirelessly both behind the scenes and on the ground a gigantic, sincere, and heartfelt thank you for what I feel like can safely be considered a triumph of planning and infrastructure. 10 years ago, there’s not a chance in hell that sentence, let alone the sentiment, would have been pointed towards those same folks. My journey to the East Side of Cincinnati, down 75, over to 50 towards Paycor Stadium and Great American Ballpark, was essentially no worse than a typical Friday night. Our trip to Riverbend was even faster - no traffic, no hiccups. Nothing. Foot traffic downtown was intense, but well managed, as was transport public, paid, or otherwise given (the mom’s and dad’s dropping bedazzled kids off also deserve their own commendation - kudos to you all). Was it flawless? Nothing ever is. This weekend, however, Cincinnati as an entity and everyone involved had to figure out how to accommodate: two sold out Cincinnati Reds games, a sold out FC Cincinnati game, multiple other concerts, shows, and events happening all over the city. And you know what? They fucking crushed it.
I can’t think of another time where I was able to drive to the other side of town to one of our dozens of craft breweries to have a couple beers with a great friend while we talked about how crazy the weekend was while watching the Cincinnati Reds win in the bottom of the 12th inning because of a game winning homerun while THOUSANDS of adoring fans were having the absolute time of their lives listening to one of - if not the - biggest stars in music play to a sold out crowd in the stadium where the Cincinnati Bengals had two of their best seasons in recent memory. At what other point in time could I have gone to a show at Riverbend (of all venues) to see a band who was most popular in the 90’s with another band comprised of even more 90’s music stars who themselves acknowledge was a genuine surprise because of the OTHER show happening in the city who was then moved to tears because of the crowd?
Y’all - just think about the content of those ridiculous run-on sentences. Then think about all of the other tens of thousands of individual experiences happening simultaneously. That’s a lot of love. That’s almost infinite positivity. That’s simply incredible, and we should be celebrating that any one of those things happened, let alone ALL of them.
My social media feeds were - and still are - teeming with photos and posts and videos and all kinds of pieces of moments from all over the city this weekend. Cincinnati was alive and vital and bursting at the seams with everything we could possibly ask for as a city, as a town, as our home. It was - and still is - breathtaking.
To those bemoaning the arrival of Taylor Swift, complaining about her fans, or her music. To those upset about whatever imagined disruption this imposed on the city, or its inhabitants. To those who can’t stand, for whatever reason, that someone else is enjoying something they don’t care for. I hope you find that thing for yourself. I hope you can find that kind of joy in something. This was a magical, inspiring, all-out awesome weekend for so many people and, just as importantly, for our city. This was a city, our city, planting its flag and telling other bands, musicians, sports teams - and all their fans - that Cincinnati has this shit figured out and we’re ready for more. So let’s do it all again as soon as possible. Let’s make Cincinnati a destination where before it was routinely - and sadly - skipped over. This is a special time for the city, for us, and it was a special time for tens of thousands of Taylor Swift fans. It’s cause for celebration, just as it is for reflection.
This city can and should be so much more - Cincinnati has a lot to offer and I like to think, no, believe, that even more good things are on the way. I really hope this weekend was our first gigantic step towards that future. And I really hope that those who didn’t feel like joining in this time around will the next time.