April Fools’ Day: The aftermath

All of us at the West Orange Times & Observer love our community. It is our home; we have no intent to harm it.

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I’ll never forget my first April Fools’ Day spoof edition. I was the editor for the East County Observer, the West Orange Times & Observer’s sister paper covering the master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

We had several doozies in that one. We reported that a strip club was going to anchor one of the community’s upscale plazas; that Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch was building the world’s largest cow patty as a tourist attraction; and that the community’s homeowners association was launching a new automatic-debit program to pay fines for violations.

My palms were sweaty as we transmitted the final pages to the press. Because the spoof edition had become a tradition at our Longboat Observer, I knew what to expect. Some would “get it”; some would not. And for the rest of the week, my role would become that of a human punching bag.

By the second year, most readers were ready for our prank. And SMR’s President and CEO Rex Jensen even wanted in on it. It seemed readers didn’t mind being tricked once in a while. And today, many years later, those readers can’t wait to see what we’ll think of next.

So here, at the West Orange Times & Observer, we’re embarking on that journey once again. Year one: Some “got it”; some, well, not so much. There has been plenty of positive responses and, yes, a few pitchforks. But the spoof edition is one of our favorite traditions, if for no other reason than to step back once in a while and laugh — at each other and ourselves. 

We hope our spoofs were able to do just that — at least for a few minutes.

Truly, there never is any malicious intent behind any of our spoofs. All of us at the West Orange Times & Observer love our community. It is our home; we have no intent to harm it.

Theater not a laughing matter
While you may have thought your April Fools’ article (about the movie theater) was funny, there are many of us who did not. 

The surrounding neighborhood associations (near Winter Garden Village) have had to argue against a movie theater in the past. ... The city promised ... advanced notice of any proposed changes. Upon reading your article, many of the local residents called our HOA presidents, (and) emailed the City Commission and the mayor to communicate our frustration. 

When you took over the paper, I believe your objective was to provide a “small-town, community feel” for your readers. Clearly, you do not know the community the paper supports.

Kim Niday

Disappointed that it was a joke
My wife and I loved your April Fools’ Day edition.  Our only disappointment is that AMC is not building a new theater in Winter Garden. I would have loved to have seen “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” on the big screen.  

Great newspaper. I look forward to reading it every week while I sip my coffee at Axum.

Marc Gimbel 

We suck!
You made a fool of a 74-year-old grandmother whose two grandchildren are going to the new school and who read with delight and told them about the new movie (theater). 

In the vernacular of today, you and your small-time paper suck. 

Raleen Huhne

Kudos from Oakland
Very creative y’all.

 I really liked the idea of the Raiders coming to Oakland! ... Maybe we should include that in our new branding/marketing strategy. Thanks for livening up our little part of the world. 

Dennis Foltz, town manager, Oakland

Thumbs up from Ocoee PD
Enjoyed the April Fools’ Day edition! Everyone’s reaction was hilarious!

Ella Wisecup, Ocoee Police Department

Spoofs unveil larger issue
Well, I’m relieved that there will not be a penitentiary or NFL team in our backyard. I felt like I was having a drug-induced episode when I read the article about the Oakland Raiders, so I am glad I immediately happened upon your April Fools’ article.

Having said that, I think that these two pieces brought up a bigger issue for me and one I know plagues our society (I am guilty of this as well). This problem is NIMBY or Not In My Back Yard. We want more jails, more schools, perhaps an NFL team to make Orlando sexier, more shopping, more conveniences, and heck, even more places to dump our garbage. And yet, we don’t want to be affected in any negative way by the stuff we want or need to function as a society. 

The April Fools’ joke not only made me laugh but also made me examine my NIMBY issues.

Thanks again for all your hard work and sense of humor!

Kiki Grossman

Jail joke a little too much
Everyone enjoys a joke now and then, but this one was not so funny. There are a lot of people who love the small-town feel of Winter Garden and Oakland. The joke about the jail was a little much. The people here read the Observer to get information and keep up with the town they love. They are still getting used to the paper’s name being changed!

 My phone at West Orange High has been ringing off the hook asking if we knew anything about this. Seems they didn’t turn to the next page to see it was a joke, (and) they were so upset. … Not being critical — just letting you know how much response we have received.  

Tammi Brown, West Orange High School

Windermere traffic no laughing matter
I greeted your April Fools’ story initially with excitement and a sense of relief — until I realized it was a joke.

Tough call, when the traffic in Windermere has become a joke. As a resident here for only 18 years, I get pretty fired up when I finally get out of my driveway, usually waved out by a good Samaritan driver, only to find the traffic coming into town is backed up all the way from the town circle to Apopka-Vineland Road. Trust me: It is only getting worse.

Why are politicians and developers allowed to do all the stuff at Horizon West with no real plan for getting those residents into Orlando?  

You may complain about the upscale area known as the town of Windermere, but it certainly is not our fault for having only a peninsula or two to get around. It is going from bad to worse, and for everybody who needs to drive around here, not just residents. 

I’ll hear a suggestion or two every now and then but feel that the powers in this county are resigned to have traffic here as slow or slower than Interstate 4. That isn’t funny or a joke. It is just sad.

Daniel Higgins

April 1 edition well done
Thanks for the humor and professionalism of the April 1 edition. Well done. In the vein of Orson Welles — without all the panic.

Donald S. Buehler

Windermere: among the gates

Rita Schoeffler: Ha ha! This was the best; I am still laughing!

Aly Verdasco: This was too funny. Loved the guard dogs with military lasers! I almost envision “Escape from New York.”

Marty Searles: Boy, this one and the naming of Rural Settlement High School. Things are a little slow around the office today!

Renee Funk: Love the sense of humor! Great laugh this morning! 

Laura Dowling: Tears running down my face from laughing so hard.

Rural Settlement High School
Kimberly Hyatt: Now say that fast three times. Haha.

Sonya Vercher Adams: Stupid name … just saying. Surely there was some better options.

David Gorham: I want those 5 minutes back!

Allison Butler: Lake Butler High would have been much better.

Lynn Bragger: That’s a stupid name for a high school.

Marty Searles: And all this time, I’m thinking the School Board must have held the meeting at Knox Nursery and smoked a couple bongs before voting. Happy April Fools’ Day!

Edward Bloor: Did they consider Construction Site High School?

Kanye West buys Nehrling Gardens
Steve Duesler: Watch out. The IQ of the area will soon be falling.

Shannon Eachus: April Fools’ I hope.

Daviid Chosen: I thought he was broke from his debt?

Karen Olivier Chapman: I hope this is a joke.




Michael Eng

As a child, Editor and Publisher Michael Eng collected front pages of the Kansas City Star during Operation Desert Storm, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would pursue a career in journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his wife and three children, or playing drums around town. He’s also a sucker for dad jokes.

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