On the occasion of Lake Mary Life’s 15th anniversary issue, we look back at some of our most memorable moments from the past decade-and-a-half
Sheila Kramer, Publisher
It seems like we just started Lake Mary Life, and it also seems like Lake Mary Life has been around forever.
In today’s world, as media pundits constantly question the fate of print, Lake Mary Life (along with our three sister publications) is thriving. I’m often asked how this is possible. My answer is always the same: We do the work. Many other publications have come and gone in the years we’ve been publishing. Meanwhile, we powered through our start-up phase, we weathered the Great Recession, and we continue to prosper during social media’s rise (and, impending fall). We’ve done this by consistently telling the heartwarming and inspiring stories of our community – issue after issue – and the results are obvious. We love what we do, our readers love what we produce, and we are all grateful for the local businesses that have supported us along the way.
As for my favorite moment... It has to be the 10th anniversary party we threw. Party Like a 10-Year-Old, we called it. In the elegant ballroom of Heathrow Country Club, more than 200 people joined together to celebrate Lake Mary Life’s success, and it was incredible. The music was top-notch, if I do say so, myself. Our friend Michael Andrew of Swingerhead fame was joined by the Kramer boys (my husband Michael and son Ben) along with several other remarkable musicians – and the place was swinging!
While public speaking has always been a challenge for me, the words just flowed from my lips as I addressed the crowd that night. It was like I was standing with a large group of friends who cheered me on. “Ten years!” I said, and the crowd roared. I reported that night that our headquarters had relocated out of our home to a real office for the first time, and the crowd went wild. It was the experience of a lifetime, but the best was yet to come.
To my complete surprise, Mayor David Mealor of Lake Mary took to the podium, turned to Michael and me, and said, “Lake Mary Life is responsible for the cohesiveness of our city. We are so thankful for Michael and Sheila.” And then, in the biggest shock of our lives, Mayor Mealor proclaimed April 2 as Lake Mary Life Day in the City of Lake Mary for every year in perpetuity.
Believe me, back in 2003, when Lake Mary Life was in the planning stages, I knew we’d tell great stories, I knew we’d build businesses, I knew we’d be beautiful... but I never dreamed that we’d have our own day!
Michael Kramer, Managing Editor
In July 2014, Family Circle magazine named Lake Mary as one of America’s Ten Best Towns for Families. Even before this prestigious honor was announced, several people at City Hall had been tipped off that the news was coming. I don’t remember who told us about it, but as soon as the word reached the Lake Mary Life staff, we knew this was going to be the cover story for our September/October ‘14 issue.
But what would the cover look like? After much deliberation, we decided to put out a community all-call to any Lake Mary resident who wanted to be on the cover. A simple, but risky move. All we really needed was 10, maybe 20 people for it to be a cover-worthy photo. But to paraphrase that 1970s cult classic movie: Suppose we scheduled a cover shot and nobody came.
The morning of Wednesday, August 6, 2014, seemed to confirm our worst fears. It was overcast, and rain was predicted. At about 2:00 p.m. the clouds faded away. We started to set up at the Lake Mary Events Center for what we hoped would be a classic cover shot at 4:00 p.m. But where were the people?
A half-hour later, our fears were completely allayed. More than 250 of our fellow Lake Mary citizens had answered the call. The result? An iconic photo that still graces one of the walls of our office – a testimonial to the greatness of our community.
Heather Loomis, Art Director
Graphic designers usually spend most of their time at the computer, but my work with Lake Mary Life has given me so many opportunities to get out in the community and have some fun. I’ve climbed to the roof of a local building barefoot in pursuit of a great cover shot, but my favorite memory is the adventure we took to get the shot for our May/June ‘17 cover, Sailing Royalty. With photographer Jim Hobart, Samantha Taylor and I boarded a beautiful boat and sailed into Sanford’s Lake Monroe. On another boat were three generations of the Hayden family, all of them accomplished competitive sailors.
It was cold! The photoshoot was in mid-March, and it happened to fall on the coldest day of 2017. It was also the first time we’d done photography with a drone. Sam, in fact, got to lean over the edge of the boat and snatch the drone out of mid-air. Meanwhile, we talked back and forth between the two boats with walkie-talkies and otherwise had a fabulous day on the water. Even better, we left with one of my all-time favorite cover shots.
Chip Colandreo, Associate Publisher
About a year ago, I was given the opportunity to tag along on an Honor Flight, a special day-trip to Washington, D.C., for local war veterans to visit the memorials built to honor them. Coverage of the trip appeared in our Jan/Feb ‘17 issue. It was an amazing and very emotional experience. I’ll never forget the sight of a 90-year-old World War II veteran breaking down in tears as he read a plaque honoring his fallen comrades. The most amazing experience, though, was our return to Orlando International Airport. It was well past 11:00 p.m. when we emerged from the tram on the terminal side, and there waiting for us were several hundred supporters cheering, waving flags, and thanking the veterans for their service, one by one. Bagpipers and other musicians played patriotic songs, and the feeling of gratitude for the sacrifice of these veterans was overwhelming. I should have seen it coming, but I was totally unprepared for that final, emotional punch.
Sherri Westfall, Office Manager
I remember getting starstruck at our old office inside Sheila and Michael’s home. This was back in 2012, or so, and in walks actress Mayim Bialik... Blossom! Mayim is a good friend of the Kramers’ daughter, Samantha Taylor, and the two were enjoying a day out on the town together. My husband and I were (and still are) huge fans of The Big Bang Theory, and Mayim was just beginning her stint on the show. I remember thinking how beautiful she was, even though she was just in a ballcap and comfy clothes. She was kind as could be, and we enjoyed a wonderful few minutes together. I even got a great photo!
Penny O’Connell, Account Executive
Where do I begin? Being Lake Mary Life’s account executive for the past 11 years, I have had the privilege of living an extraordinary life! Doors have opened up to me that I never could have imagined. Our magazines are the heart and soul of Seminole County. I am able to meet and learn from talented new business owners, and I have the joy of taking part in their growth. Because of my work in the community, I get to experience the finest new restaurants, attend numerous concerts and plays, and I even took a trip to Cancun as part of a media tour!
I am now friends with brilliant leaders and dedicated individuals who have changed the quality of our neighborhoods and schools. My work has enriched my life immensely, but my favorite part of the job is walking into the office every single day. There I’m greeted by the most caring, talented, generous, helpful, funny, and loving people I have ever worked with in my life. And, I know they love me right back!
Georgia Fojo, Associate Editor
What I love most about working for Lake Mary Life is that I’m always in the know about what’s happening around Seminole County – like the time a new airline debuted at Orlando Sanford International Airport.
My coworker Penny O’Connell, myself, my mom, and a friend, had the opportunity to take a whirlwind media trip from Sanford to Cancun, Mexico. A mariachi band serenaded us at the airport, and if that wasn’t enough to get us in the spirit, ice-cold mimosas greeted our welcoming hands as we stepped into the aircraft cabin and settled in for our short flight to Cancun. Before we could blink, it was time to land. We headed to a gorgeous, all-inclusive resort right on the water’s edge and enjoyed an eye-popping buffet lunch, pool time, a soothing walk on the beach, and an al fresco dinner followed up by a show-stopping performance at a local event venue. The next morning, we joined a boat tour by hopping into two-seat speed boats and navigating our way through Cancun’s lagoon mangrove channels. We did all of that (and some more) in a little over 24 hours. It was an incredible adventure, and I couldn’t have experienced it without Lake Mary Life.
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