SD weekly’s April Fools story garners local laughs

May 1, 2015

From the Custer County Chronicle, Custer, SD

CUSTER, SD—The reaction was immediate, mostly hilarious and overwhelmingly positive.

The Custer County Chronicle’s April Fool’s Day story, spawned from the ever-scheming mind of Chronicle General Manager Jason Ferguson, seemed to strike a chord within the community, as many people went out of their way to call, stop in or e-mail the Chronicle with a story about how the article on the “bargain” Custer-to-Rapid City (one-way, no less) flight was received.

One of the first and biggest reactions came from the Chronicle’s advertising salesperson, Elaine Studt, who came into the Chronicle office that afternoon and said she was “going to kill” Ferguson.

Studt went on to relay a story of how she saw the headline and read only the first couple of paragraphs before becoming up in arms and incredulous that such a flight was going to be scheduled. She first directed her disbelief at Hill City Prevailer News Editor Kacie Svoboda (who had not yet read the article) before grabbing a paper and heading into downtown Hill City for a sales call, where she continued to rant to a client and question the wisdom of the flight.

“Even Phil Lampert (for the record, the commissioner who was quoted in the story was ‘Pill Hampert’) thinks this is a good idea,” she said incredulously.

The client glossed over the story before wondering aloud if it was an April Fool’s joke. Together, they scanned to the end of the paper, where they saw the punch line. Her story gave everyone at the Chronicle (in particular, Ferguson) a good laugh.

But that was just the start of the feedback.

The Chronicle’s driver, Paul TerMeer, also only looked at the headline as he unloaded papers, also bewildered by the possibility of such a flight before wondering a few minutes later if it was a joke.

From there, hilarity ensued.

Chronicle reporter Carrie Moore live-texted her parents’ reaction to the story as they read it, which she said started with her mother laughing until she cried over the story.

“This is probably Jason’s best work,” she said.

Then came her father, Marc Moore.

Marc apparently believed the story for a while, as Carrie reported him slapping his head and saying aloud, “This is stupid! What a waste of money!”

However, once he got to the part where the planes were going to be taken apart to be hauled back to Custer, he realized he was being had.

“Oh, this is fake,” he said. “That Jason!”

Thursday morning, Chronicle Editor Norma Najacht made her way to Black Hills Burger and Bun for some photos and was informed by restaurant owner Claude Smith that his wife, Christie, didn’t read the entire story and was mad about the planned flights and couldn’t believe the exorbitant price of the tickets.

Claude also said employees at the South Dakota Department of Transportation, where their daughter Jessica’s husband works, were all upset about it, too. Only one person there had read the entire article, he said.

Jim Understock, co-owner of Frontier Photo, came into the Chronicle that morning and proclaimed the story had gotten his partner at the business “hook, line and sinker.”

“She took it all the way,” he said, saying she told him, “I gotta read this to you.”

He said about halfway through the story, he told her, “April Fool’s.”

“That was good,” he said. “She was ‘in the net.’”

Custer Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Ressler said the story was the first time he had ever been taken by an April Fool’s Day prank.

“You got me good, buddy,” Ressler told Ferguson that morning on the phone. “That was funny.”

Ressler said he went into the office last Thursday morning and saw the headline and thought to himself, “What? Are you kidding me?” He asked some people if they had read it, including employees at Dacotah Bank. Eventually, as he read further, he realized it was a prank and ran back to the bank to tell them it was a prank. They all agreed that made much more sense than believing the county commission had lost its collective mind.

“That was great, Jason,” he said. “Good work.”

Deb Bell of Sander Sanitation phoned Ferguson that morning to say a coworker was reading the story out loud and was “rolling.” Bell said her coworker got about halfway through the story before checking the date of the paper—April 1—and realized what was going on.

“Jason, that was epic,” she said. “Absolutely epic. It’s perfect. I love it.”

Phil Lampert, not Pill Hampert, also commented on the story.

“I enjoyed the Custer-to-Rapid City flight story,” he e-mailed in. “Thanks for making me smile.”

Reaction came even from Hill City.

“Excellent, Jason,” Kim Benning wrote in an e-mail. “It was over for me with four portly TSA agents.”

“Probably by far the most awesome April Fool’s prank ever,” wrote “Mary” on the Chronicle’s website. “I cannot even breathe from laughing so hard. I knew something wasn’t right and was about to call the county, but as I read, I became curious, knowing the paper was printed April 1, so I jumped to the end of the article. Ha! I read the rest to my friend and we laughed our heads off. Very well done and thank you for the laugh!”

Colleen Mahrt phoned the Chronicle and asked if she needed to talk to Ferguson to book a flight. Told he wasn’t in Monday morning, she instead said to tell him the article was wonderful.

Not all of the feedback was positive. One irate caller demanded to know who wrote the story, saying she thought she was going to have to “go beat on commissioners’ doors.” Once she was told to finish the story and realized it was a prank, she was not amused and said the story wasn’t funny.

“You’re going to get a lot more phone calls,” she said.

As the story hit the Internet, comments came in via Facebook, as well. Former Chamber Events Coordinator Robin Bagley saw the story and commented on Facebook (tongue in cheek), “So on my last day of work in Rapid, I see that there will now be flights from Custer to Rapid? Where was this the past two years?”

Other Internet comments included:

• “Jason, Jason, Jason. Yup, sounds about right; let’s go for it.”—Faye Bebo.

• “That is funny. I like the part about being chosen at random to be the flight attendant.”—Rapid City Police Department Capt. Don Hedrick

• “Is this for real?!?!?!” —Courtney Lockhart

• You can’t post an April Fool’s article on April 2. That is just not right (the article didn’t go onto our website until the next morning).

• “I’m literally busting a gut! I particularly love the ‘rumbling through the grass for 300 yards!’”—Mike Amiotte

• “Your bosses let you do an April Fool’s issue? Brave people!”—LaVida Dickinson, Ferguson’s journalism teacher and adviser at Chadron State College (apparently well versed in his penchant for pranks).

• “The fun part is the people of Custer could afford to do this … well, most of them.”—Jason White

• “($)375 one way for 16 minutes of air time. Hahahaha!” —Travis Bell

• “I feel the airfare is a little high….”—Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler.

• “I truly liked the portly TSA agents and was considering applying for one of those positions.”—Mike Mooney.

• OMG! Awesome post! Thanks for the chuckle!

• Various forms of LOL and LMAO.

Hopefully, most everyone got a good laugh. Hopefully, the county commissioners didn’t field too many irate calls. April Fool’s Day doesn’t fall on a Wednesday very often, so we felt it was an opportunity we had to take. We have to report so much serious, not-so-funny news that it’s nice to be able to have some fun with the paper once in a while.

And yes, the Question of the Week in the same issue was fabricated by Ferguson, as well. Katy Perry does not love him, no matter how much he wants to believe otherwise.