The April Fool’s Joke Played On Airline Passengers, Daily, For Over 40 Years

by SharonKurheg

I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for pranks and practical jokes. I mean, I was the kid who, when I was 9 and had just moved the neighborhood, convinced my next-door neighbor’s grandmother that I was twins. 😉

So April 1st has always been a fun day for me. Even if I wasn’t always creative enough to think up my own April Fool’s jokes, I’ve always appreciated learning about the pranks others have played, and was always willing to share the wealth:

But it’s 2021, and things are tentatively looking more optimistic. So let me tell you about a joke that’s been played on airline passengers, not just on April Fool’s day, but just about every day of the year for over 4 decades.

It’s specifically played on passengers as they’re making their final descent on their way to Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport. And it looks like this:

an aerial view of a neighborhood


Yep, that’s a WELCOME TO CLEVELAND sign in the heart of Wisconsin. A guy named Mark Gubin painted it on the roof of the building that serves as his studio and home.

The building is a reclaimed movie theater in the Bay View section of Milwaukee. And, as luck would have it, it’s right near the airport and situated along the landing planes’ flight path.

an aerial view of a city


According to a 2015 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, way back in 1978, Gubin, a (now-retired) photographer/artist and an assistant were on the (flat) roof of the building, eating lunch. As low-flying planes went by, the assistant suggested painting a WELCOME TO MILWAUKEE sign on the roof.

Creative (and obviously a little cheeky) Gubin said, “You know what would be even better?”

And the idea was hatched.

From MJS:

Using a paint roller, he created the Cleveland sign in 6-foot-tall letters. It wasn’t long before the sign was worldwide news and even the subject of a joke by Johnny Carson…For better or worse, it’s Gubin’s Mona Lisa.

Gubin says he refreshes the sign with white or yellow paint every six years or so.

MJS reports that besides the occasional hate mail from Cleveland, and the conspiracy theorists who wonder what the sign REALLY means, flight attendants don’t appreciate having the extra work of explaining the situation every time a Milwaukee-bound passenger presses the call light after they’ve seen the sign. And OK yeah, I could see their concern (as well as that of the nervous passengers who think they’re landing in Ohio when they’re supposed to be flying to Wisconsin), but perhaps it’s a small price to pay for a REALLY GOOD practical joke that’s been going on for over 40 years now. 😉

Feature Photo: Public Domain

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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