February 22, 2019 06:56 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- It started with a tongue-in-cheek joke last month.
"We wanted to have fun when it was really cold, and we thought that doing something new on our Facebook page would be welcome at this time of year, given the weather conditions," Albert Lea assistant city manager Jerry Gabrielatos said.
With schools, churches, and businesses closing their doors due to inclement weather, the city decided to post its own closure -- the (outdoor) aquatic center, which had already been closed for the season months prior.
"It was [a post] that the public really loved, gauging by the reaction we saw on Facebook," Gabrielatos said.
In an effort to stave off cabin fever and spread a few laughs, the city kept the joke going. The unidentified man wearing swim trunks and flip flops in the first photo appeared all over town, promoting a city event, reminding residents to dig out fire hydrants from snow banks and continuing to express sorrow that the pool -- and the beach -- were closed.
"We need that, cabin fever being what it is, it's good to have a laugh," Elizabeth Spande told ABC 6 News while visiting the city's library Friday afternoon.
It's not just a fun gimmick; Gabrielatos said the exposure has helped the city's Facebook page reach tens of thousands of people, with the beach closure post attracting nearly 28,000 views.
"We've added 164 followers over the past three weeks," he said. "We've never seen that kind of growth, and what's even more fun for us as a city government is a lot of the people who are liking our posts are not folks that we usually hear from, so we're engaging a group of people that we don't usually talk to."
That's 164 more people who will see important updates from City Hall, including when the aquatic center will finally reopen for the season, right in the Facebook feeds.
Asked what the next gag will be, Gabrielatos said to stay tuned.
"We don't have it mapped out yet but we like suggestions from the public, and if there are ways that we can incorporate humor into city service we're going to do it," he said
Created: February 22, 2019 06:56 PM
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