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The Greatest Cinco de Mayo Prank Ever

As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a television sportscaster. My dad is in the business (he’s a news anchor in Seattle), so that’s all I ever knew.  I didn’t care about being an astronaut or an athlete (after I realized that I lack talent); I wanted to do what he did, but on the sports desk. I’m proud that I achieved that goal. I truly feel like I live a dream everyday, but it took some work to get here.

My first job out of college was as a full-time news reporter at KEPR-TV in Pasco, Washington (an area known as the Tri-Cities for those of you not from around here). People always told me that the first job in the business is the most fun, and that was the truth. It’s amazing how a bunch of 20-something-year-old kids rally around each other in small markets. You get paid in peanuts, work your butt off to pay your dues, and you still manage to laugh every day. I’ll never forget my time in that newsroom. Even though I was only there for a year, I have friendships that will last a lifetime.

One of the funniest moments at KEPR surrounds Cinco de Mayo. I’m sure this is one of those “had to be there” moments, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Like I mentioned before, everyone in our newsroom was fresh out of college (I was just 23 at the time). We were “professionals”, but we were all still really immature at the time (I’m still not sure I’ve completely grown up).

Here’s the story… 

Pasco has a very large Hispanic population. It’s also a very proud population. Every year, the Hispanic newspaper called La Voz throws a huge Cinco de Mayo celebration. The festival features Mariachi bands, caballeros, dancing, music, food booths, and a variety of other cultural entertainment. It’s a huge party!

One day I come back to the station after gathering stories for the newscast. On my desk is a sheet of paper, so I pick it up to see what it says. The guys who sit around immediately start to chuckle. The paper is an application to perform at the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Filled in on the application is my name, where I work, and what I plan on performing at the festival…it reads, ”‘The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You’ by Gloria Estefan”. I started to laugh, thinking they filled this thing out for fun. But, it turns out they actually submitted the darn thing. They started howling with laughter, and I immediately got uncomfortable. They quickly assured me that nothing would ever come of it.

That’s all these guys would ever talk about for the next few weeks. They were proud of their prank. Little did they know what was going to happen…

About a week before Cinco de Mayo, I was reading the Tri-City Herald (the local newspaper). On the front page was a preview for the upcoming festival. In the article, it mentioned some of the exciting acts that were going to be showcased during the celebration. One of the first names mentioned was “KEPR-TV reporter Tim Lewis, performing ‘The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You’”. My heart dropped to my toes. I was never informed that my application was accepted, but there I was as front page news.

I got in touch with my friends in an absolute panic. I told them we had to shut this thing down right away. Their only response was, “Well, it’s in the newspaper, so now you have to do it.” There was no way I was going on stage at the Cinco de Mayo festival to sing! With that said, I realized we stepped into sensitive territory. The prank supposed to just to make me look stupid…not to make a mockery of the celebration. There was actually a moment when I thought, “Holy $^&*, I actually have to do this.” I didn’t want to demean the festival and everything it stands for by telling them we submitted my application as a prank. I felt terrible…it was a lose-lose situation.

Luckily, my co-workers pulled my name out of the mix without making me look like a complete jerk (they claimed I couldn’t make it because I was covering breaking news). I was officially off the hook! It took me a few weeks before I could really laugh about the situation. I was never mad about it…I was anxious more than anything.

We still joke about the prank today. My former news director (a.k.a. my boss) sent me a message on Facebook to say thanks for the laugh back then, and the laughs he still gets thinking about the situation now. He added my old co-worker Dan (the mastermind behind the whole thing) to the message. Dan’s response ended with “One of these days, Lewis…the rhythm is gonna get you!”

It’s obviously a moment we’ll never forget. I honestly can’t hear Gloria Estefan anymore without laughing. I was the target of the joke, but I still think it’s the greatest Cinco de Mayo prank ever (even though it’s probably the only Cinco de Mayo prank ever).  Believe it or not, I saved the application and still have it sitting around somewhere. It was too good of a memory to throw away.

I really hope you enjoyed my story. I’m guessing it would be a lot funnier if I actually performed at the festival, but let’s be honest, I think that’s better left to your imagination (here’s a little fuel for your fire).

Have an awesome Cinco de Mayo today. For those of you celebrating tonight…please be safe!

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