When I sat down next to Preston Olinger at last week’s Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch meeting, he didn’t look happy.
In fact, he looked downright angry.
“So,” he began. “They’re putting parking meters on Main Street?”
Olinger shook his head in disapproval.
I tried my best not to laugh.
“Well, did you get to page 6A?” I asked.
“No; we just grabbed the paper off the driveway on our way here,” he said. “Why?”
“All I can say is just read the whole thing,” I replied. “It gets better. I don’t want to spoil it for you.”
“Spoil it?!” he said, confused. “What do you mean?”
“Just … just read it,” I said, biting my tongue.
Although singer Andy Williams proclaims Christmas as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” at the East County Observer, that proclamation belongs to the weeks before and after April 1. The planning, creation and — most importantly, the aftermath — of our annual spoof edition is the most fun we have all year. We simply cannot wait for the emails and phone calls to begin pouring in, and we love to find out just when each reader “got it.”
And, of course, we find out quickly which readers didn’t actually make it all the way through.
To Olinger’s credit — he hadn’t had a chance to even crack open the issue. And after about 20 minutes, he turned to me with that same furrowed brow.
“It’s your April Fools’ edition, isn’t it?”
Some readers weren’t as astute. And some, remarkably, got all the way to page 6A, read the jumps there — but missed the giant “Gotcha!” at the top of the page.
Names have been removed, but here are some of my favorite responses from those who were duped:
“After reading the article regarding parking meters, I am shaking! Where did Mr. Jensen come from? If the city of Sarasota couldn’t make it, how in the world does Mr. Jensen think it will work here? As far as Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, we now have to pay to see a doctor?!”
“Czar Neal is what we have to look forward to? Neal appoints himself mayor for life? As a resident of Lakewood Ranch, I do not find this appealing besides not being very democratic.”
“I was very appalled and had many misgivings and concerns with the articles in the April 1 East County Observer. It seems the dreaded octopus is reaching out to all in Lakewood Ranch, spreading its tentacles to invade and control our being. Parking meters, incorporation, potato head? What will be next? Toll gates at every entrance and exit to Lakewood Ranch?”
Rest assured, each and every one of these readers was told immediately to turn to page 6A.
And we all had a good laugh.
But a word of advice: Read your East County Observer from cover to cover. ;-)