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April Fools Pranks That Tricked Entire Cities

Just wait 'til you see what happened in Philadelphia.

By Livability on April 1, 2022

Seattle Space Needle in clouds and fog|edgecumbe 2.jpg|Liberty Bell_0.jpg|Keep Austin Weird.jpg
Courtesy of Sean Davis under a CC 4.0 license.

Your shoelace is untied…April Fools!

There’s a spider on your arm…April Fools!

From juvenile to ultra-sophisticated, April Fools jokes have been pulled on people supposedly since the 16th century. Media organizations, companies, celebrities and even governments have concocted April 1st pranks to fool their fellow citizens; and here are some of the more inventive ones.

Welcome to…Chicago?

In Los Angeles, officials at Hollywood Park racetrack pulled an April Fools stunt that fooled passengers flying into Los Angeles International Airport. The night before, track officials figured the direction that incoming planes would land on April 1, then erected an 85-foot sign saying “Welcome to Chicago.”

Many airplane passengers could easily see the sign when their respective flights came in for a landing, so numerous passengers throughout the day were initially shocked and thought they were on the wrong flight. The racetrack kept the sign up for two days as entertainment.

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Give us liberty, or give us tacos

The New York TimesThe Washington Post and four other major newspapers got together on April 1, 1996, to print that Taco Bell had not only purchased the Liberty Bell but was renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell” as part of a huge advertising promotion. As a result, Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, CA was flooded with thousands of negative phone calls. Also contacted were dozens of unknowing employees at the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. Callers demanded to know how a priceless historical landmark could be sold to a fast-food company.

Alamo Rent-A-Monster Truck

St. Louis-based Alamo Rent-A-Car pulled a humorous April Fools national promotion by issuing a press release stating that the company would begin offering monster truck rentals in select U.S. locations. Standing 12 feet tall, the trucks would feature 66-inch tires, as well as off-road packages ideal for customers who relished adventure. Rates, they said, would start at $650 per day, while weekly rates would be available by request.

Alamo received dozens of inquiries even though the company ran the following disclaimer at the bottom of the press release: “Reservations aren’t currently available because this is a fictional program. Happy April Fools Day!”

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Keep Austin Weird

The city of Austin has long used the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” to promote local small businesses as well as support the diverse socio-political views of its residents. In 2012, then-mayor Lee Leffingwell took the slogan to an April Fools level. Leffingwell issued a number of mandates on April 1 that were met with surprise by many citizens, until they realized what day it was.

Some of Leffingwell’s declarations for the city: A requirement that mustard be available on the table at all Austin restaurants; restrictions on the use of oddly-sized business cards; an immediate citywide ban on name-dropping using first names only; and a prohibition against the use of abbreviations IMHO (in my honest opinion) and FWIW (for what it’s worth).

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