Red Friday: A Kansas City Tradition

It's a tradition celebrated throughout an entire region, forged by charity and the love of the game. It has transcended generations and brought together a city of nearly 500,000. And in its 24th installment, it literally painted the town red.

"It" is Red Friday.

Red Friday began in 1992 as an idea pitched to Lamar Hunt by the first president of the Red Coaters, the late Jim Shultz.

"The Red Coaters represent one of the longest histories of this organization," Chiefs historian Bob Moore said. "Literally, these people were the building blocks for the attendance of these games."

The Red Coaters were founded in 1963 after the club moved from Dallas to Kansas City. In Dallas, Hunt had a similar group called the Spur Club. Members were obliged to sell tickets and received a red coat after selling so many.

Made up of businessmen and women dedicated to the Chiefs and their community, the Red Coaters still share the same mission of giving today.

Though founded on a charitable basis, the original event was intended to draw interest to the Chiefs first regular season game, no matter if it was home or away, in an effort to revive the city's love for the sport.

After winning Super Bowl IV, Chiefs teams had only two 10-win seasons and two playoff appearances from 1970 to 1989.

"It was a period of time when the Chiefs represented their greatest growth," Moore said. "After 20 years of failure, this was a period where the Chiefs sold out games and made it to the playoffs."

And over the years, one group's idea and the man who made it happen inspired a city to believe again.
"[Hunt] was a very active participant in Red Friday," Moore remembered. "He never missed it."

The first Red Friday featured the Red Coaters and Hunt, himself, on the streets of Kansas City selling newspapers with a special Chiefs edition to benefit local charities. The event, however, soon grew into something much larger—a process that carries on today.

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"If you described it as a pep rally, you would certainly be correct," Moore said. "It sort of went back to collegiate roots."

The initial events were held in Westport and generally included a stage show, the Chiefs cheerleaders, a band and assorted player appearances to raise money and awareness for their specific charities. The players' individual charities depended on their involvement in the community. Each of the players' charities was represented with flags hung around the stadium.

"It became important that the players get to become involved in the charities that they wanted," Moore recalled. "Because of the promotion of those particular programs, those players really took ownership of their own programs, and this was the opportunity to go out and promote it."

Red Friday remains a fluid fixture in the Kansas City community with new and different features each year. After debuting on the west side of town, Red Friday moved north to the river, back to Westport, then to the Arrowhead parking lot.

The Chiefs-themed newspapers turned into Red Friday magazines. Then those Red Friday magazines turned into Chiefs Kingdom flags sold to raise money for charity.

In 2013, the Chiefs partnered with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City for Red Thursday. In 2014, the celebration was held at Union Station. And in 2015, the event changed to Red Thursday for a primetime game against Denver to kick off the season.

But though the events may differ and the times may change, a tradition remains that tells the story of a kingdom, strangers united.

Photos of the support shown around town for the Chiefs home opener on Red Thursday.

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