Tampa, Kansas, is about an hour north of Wichita, along the historic Santa Fe Trail. The small town has 24 businesses and only has a population of about 100 people. The journey to bring the Kansas residents to the Bay Area started by mistake.
"One of our team members was trying to MapQuest her way back to Tampa, Florida, and said, ‘Wow, this is a long way to go to come back home. I knew it wasn’t that far.’ It was Tampa, Kansas," explained Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada.
It was pitched to see if they can bring them for the holidays for a memorable experience for the entire town – and it happened.
They partnered with Southwest Airlines, Tampa International Airport, and local attractions. The group had a full itinerary during their visit. Tuesday, they went to Busch Gardens.
"When we first heard that we were coming, we didn't really know what all it entailed," said Carla Hajek, who lives in Tampa, Kansas. "Oh my gosh, we are loving Tampa, Florida. We have been shown so much hospitality, and it has just been great."
Residents of Tampa, Kansas, at Busch Gardens
Wednesday, they plan to visit ZooTampa.
"Some of those young people will remember Tampa, they’ll bring their families to Busch Gardens, they’ll bring their families to ZooTampa," Corrada said. "So, we’re very, very excited about this relationship with another city that bears our same name."
Danny Williamson, a resident of Tampa, Kansas, said "all but a couple" came to Florida.
"Had to leave a couple behind to wrangle the cattle and take care of the city," he said with a laugh. "It’s been awesome. The generosity of Visit Tampa Bay has been awesome. Busch Gardens, we went yesterday. People are so nice and so grateful. We all felt like VIPs."
He said about 30 kids came on the trip.
"They’re having a ball," Williamson explained. "This is a trip of a lifetime for some of these kids. A lot of them had homework they had to bring with them."
The Kansas town is close-knit, he described, adding that if something happens to one person, everyone pitches in to help.
When asked if there are any Tampa Bay Bucs fans, Williamson said, "No, that’s Chiefs’ country. I’m sorry."