This weekend in Pittsburgh — declared “Swiftsburgh” by Mayor Ed Gainey — the glitter, sequins and scream-singing extended beyond the bounds of Acrisure Stadium as Taylor Swift took the stage for her Eras Tour. While the stadium discouraged tailgating, thousands of fans who had lost the “Great War” to get tickets brought blankets and chairs and staked out the stadium’s North Shore lawn and nearby parks both Friday and Saturday.

Some, such as 21-year-old Courtney McGinley and Zoe Zeff, enjoyed the evening from the Allegheny River. By around 7 p.m. Friday, they’d met a friendly group of fellow fans, who invited the duo onto their boat to listen to the show. In the glow of golden hour, they complimented fans walking by on their themed outfits, which corresponded to one of the singer’s “eras.” 

Each of Swift’s 10 albums has an associated color scheme and symbol: a heart for the bubblegum pop “Lover,” a snake for the edgier “Reputation,” and a cardigan for the stripped-down “folklore.” 

Both young women have been fans of Swift “since forever,” and McGinley’s favorite album still is her debut, “Taylor Swift.” For her, Swift’s country songs offer classic nostalgia and new meanings. “I’m going through a little bit of a breakup right now, so ‘Picture to Burn’ has really helped me,” she said.

While it’s not her No. 1 album, McGinley said that she’s definitely in her own “‘Reputation’ era,” with silver snake rings accenting the florals in her sequined dress. 

Farther down the river, Michael McCabe and his family set up camp next to their boat — with lawn chairs and a feast featuring fried chicken. His younger daughter, 11-year-old Alexis, also was in her “Reputation” era. For the concert, she re-created an outfit from the music video of her all-time favorite Swift song, “Look What You Made Me Do.” She proudly added that she’s been a fan of Swift for six years: half her life.

Her dad added that he’d wanted to give his daughters the chance to see Swift perform, but buying tickets — many were selling for thousands of dollars — just wasn’t financially feasible. So he and his wife, Robin opted for the next best thing.

“Like my shirt says, I’m a girl dad. I’d do anything for my girls,” McCabe said. “The best thing about Taylor is that she makes everyone feel confident in who they are as individuals.” 

By 7:30 p.m., the North Shore’s Riverfront Park was covered with picnic blankets and rhinestones — and Katie Wankel, 26, and Alexa Bachurski, 24, brought extras to share. Wankel was glad that the sounds of the stadium could be heard so well from the park, and that the threatening weather forecast from earlier had turned into a beautiful evening.

“I’m most excited just to hear her and knowing, hey, Taylor Swift is right there. Just living in that moment.”

Taylor Swift fans Zoe Zeff, left, and Courtney McGinley bask on a boat in the concert atmosphere outside Acrisure Stadium on the North Shore on Friday, June 16, 2023. (Delaney Parks/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Bachurski and Wankel agree that they love what Swift stands for. “She’s driving women to be the best that they can be,” Wankel added. “To not take yourself too seriously but also that you can do whatever you want to do.”

Taylor Hartman, 21, sat nearby in the park. She modeled her outfit on a lyric in her favorite Swift song, “Tim McGraw”: “When you think happiness/ I hope you think that little black dress,” which Hartman calls a “core memory.”

Swift has been a part of Hartman’s life for more than a decade. She recalls her dad introducing her to Swift on TV when the singer played at the Country Music Awards, long before she was a household name. 

The songs Hartman has been relating to the most lately are throwbacks such as “Mean” and “Never Grow Up,” from Swift’s third album, “Speak Now.”

“I graduated college, and a lot of her songs on there kind of hit a little bit different now,” she said. 

When Swift started her show around 8 p.m., the crowd inside and outside the stadium erupted in cheers as she sang the opening lines of “Cruel Summer.”

“Pittsburgh, I heard something about this being the ‘City of Bridges’? Well, get ready for tonight’s first bridge!” the singer said, prompting the evening’s first — but not last – energy high. Toddlers, teens and grandparents alike danced on the lawn, screaming the lyrics to the bridge in unison.

Taylor Swift fans gather outside Acrisure Stadium on the North Shore on Friday, June 16, 2023. (Delaney Parks/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Among the dancing tailgaters was Bri Meredith, 20, who journeyed from the Cleveland suburbs with their aunt to hear the show. A Swiftie since receiving the debut album around the age of 5, Meredith says Taylor Swift’s music has been life’s soundtrack. When they turned 15, they played the “Fearless” track “Fifteen” at midnight on the dot. More recently, Meredith has been in a “folklore” era, reeling from a friendship betrayal. Screaming along to cathartic songs like “my tears ricochet,” with lines including “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace,” provided an outlet for their complicated feelings. 

At first, Meredith was nervous about how the show would go and if they’d even be able to find parking close by. Thanks to a lucky parking lot discovery and a welcoming crowd, everything ended up working out, and they seized the opportunity to dance “more freely” from outside the stadium. Meredith cherished the opportunity to trade handmade friendship bracelets with their favorite lyrics, a Swiftie tradition based on a line from “You’re On Your Own, Kid.”

“I’ve never been able to really experience being in a crowd of Swifties before because I’ve never been to a [Swift] concert,” Meredith said. “Nobody was afraid to express themselves. There were people dancing off on their own or like our group: We randomly just found each other. We were like, ‘Let’s dance the night away!’”

All throughout the night, Shane-Wesley Saling, 25, put on a show. Strutting across the pavement in a “Reputation”inspired look and nails colored to match each era, he danced alongside his mother, whom he’d driven with from East Liverpool, Ohio. “I really just said, we’re going to go places. We’re going to be here, and we’re going to be fully us,” Saling said. 

“Folklore” and “evermore” ended up being Saling’s favorite eras of the show, even though the more mellow tracks weren’t quite as danceable. They compared the community tailgating experience to a football game — even though they had tickets for Saturday night, they wanted to hear both nights of the tour. 

Saling’s mom raised him on Swift’s music, and singing along to songs such as “Teardrops on My Guitar” became both a fond memory of childhood and a haven. “Being a queer kid and only hearing country music on the radio sometimes, [Swift] felt like a safe place,” Saling said. 

The energy of “Swiftsburgh” has expanded even beyond the concert venue area — about 1,000 fans gathered across the river in Point State Park, and Taylor Swift-themed teas, brunches and dance parties are scheduled for the weekend. Julia Buccieri, 30, plans to listen to the Saturday night show from her patio, since she could hear cheers from inside the stadium from her nearby house Friday night. 

Buccieri appreciates the way Swift provides connection and understanding to her fans, who can relate periods of their life to different eras. She loves “Blank Space,” because it takes common misogynistic criticisms of Swift’s dating life and satirizes them. 

“People say, ‘Oh, she’s overrated,’” she said. “You know, it’s mostly girls and women that listen to her music. I think that having a fan base that’s mostly female doesn’t make someone less of a cultural phenomenon.”

Saling is also ready for Saturday night’s show — after a costume change into the “Lover” era, complete with pink high-waisted pants and a top in the shape of a heart.  

“Honestly, half the time coming Downtown, even though it’s a city, there’s still always those people where it feels like, ‘Am I safe to walk here?’ But [the concert] just feels like a happy place. Nothing’s going to happen. Everyone there is there for a similar reason: They love the music.”

Delaney, a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania, is a Union Progress summer intern. Reach her at

Delaney Parks

Delaney, a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania, is a Union Progress summer intern. Reach her at