No one can predict viral fame. It hits like lightning, without warning.
Sometimes, you get burned.
Instant fame found quite a few people from the Kansas City area in 2016, from three young metal heads to a local Spanish teacher with an exuberant daily greeting for his students.
Who knows what 2017 will bring.
A stranger stumbled upon three young boys rockin’ out to Metallica on the Country Club Plaza in September and made a video of them playing. That rocketed them to instant fame when Metallica publicly complimented the boys and posted the video to its own Facebook page.
Everyone from Metallica fans to Guitar World magazine gushed over their “flawless” prowess.
The boys — Henry, Eli and Abe Ismert of Prairie Village — mostly taught themselves how to play musical instruments.
Loopy college student
Abby Jo Hamele of Lenexa, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, found viral fame when she emailed instructor Kevin Patton in November to ask for an extension of a nonexistent deadline on a class assignment.
She was recovering from wisdom teeth extraction — and under the influence of the pain medication hydrocodone — when she wrote the email.
Afterward, Hamele couldn’t remember writing the typo-laced message, in which she called Patton “my dude” and promised to buy him new markers and “answer youpr (sic) questions in class forever.
She signed it: “Love you bye.”
A screengrab of her email was retweeted thousands of times and the story of it was told by both national and international media.
She got lucky: Patton told Buzzfeed he “laughed hysterically” when he read it.
Naptime with the pit bulls
Local mom Jenna Beardé broke her own rules one day when she let the family’s two pit bulls snuggle on the bed next to her son, River, who wanted to read to them at naptime.
The dogs fell asleep.
The scene was so sweet she videotaped the moment — and that video of River reading his two canine “brothers” to sleep attracted 22 million views in the first week of its existence in August.
Beardé, who champions the adoption of pit bulls, could not have been happier.
Viral holiday greetings
Whitney Roberts Logan of Fairway created a Christmas card this year that caught worldwide attention.
She sent out a photo of her family with a greeting that tweaked the anti-refugee rhetoric that’s been swirling for months. It read: “This Christmas season we would like to remind everyone that Jesus was a Middle Eastern refugee.”
When she shared it with Pantsuit Nation, a Facebook page for Hillary Clinton supporters, the card instantly went viral, attracting more than 180,000 responses in a mere few days.
“I hope you don’t mind me (a stranger) sharing a picture with your children on it. With everything going on in Aleppo right now and Syria for the past few years I really wanted to show how your family chose to say ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” wrote one woman on Logan’s public Facebook page.
“I hope it’s gone viral because people care about people,” she said.
The K-State dropout
Billy Willson dropped out of Kansas State University in December with a middle-finger salute seen ’round the world.
The Olathe student wrote in a Facebook post he was dropping out despite earning a 4.0 grade-point average. He complained about the cost of public higher education, saying students spend four years to work in jobs where their salaries don’t even keep up with inflation.
(A K-State spokeswoman confirmed to Inside Higher Ed that Willson was enrolled for the fall semester.)
“YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED,” Willson wrote. “You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will see it some day. Heck you may have already seen it if you’ve been through college. You are being put thousands into debt to learn things you will never even use.”
He included a photo of himself flipping off a K-State campus sign, even though he wrote that his beef was with all of higher education, not specifically K-State.
The backlash — from fellow K-State students and those who work in higher education — was fierce.
After two years of hearing a loud “buenos días” every morning from their Spanish teacher at Turner High School in Kansas City, Kan., students Taylor Rios and Bella Gordillo used their cellphones to record Andrew Ward giving that greeting over and over and over again.
“When we showed him the video on the last day of school, he wouldn’t stop smiling, he was really shocked,” Rios said.
Ward posted the video on his Facebook page on May 25 and scooped up nearly half a million views in less than a week.
The internet oohed and aahed over babies in St. Luke’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit dressed as superheroes for Halloween.
The March of Dimes worked with hospital staff members to dress the tiny babies in handmade costumes of Superman, Captain America and local sports heroes.
When photos hit the internet, national media came a-calling.
“They might be in the NICU … but (the organizers) wanted to create a sense of normalcy” for families and staff to have fun with the holiday, said hospital spokeswoman Michelle Manuel. “To the parents it’s very special.”
Combative Trump supporter
Vicki Sciolaro, chairwoman of the 3rd Congressional District for the Kansas Republican Party, had a memorable appearance with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin during a live interview in October.
Sciolaro, a Trump supporter, stumped the CNN anchorwoman as she tried to defend Trump’s comments about grabbing women’s private parts by talking about abortion and former President Bill Clinton’s past. The interview immediately grabbed the attention of social media.
She tried to divert the conversation to Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court abortion case.
“Hillary Clinton doesn’t care about murdering babies, dismembering abortions, that’s OK with her,” Sciolaro said before Baldwin tried to re-direct her to Trump’s comments.
“Is it OK that a man who wants to be the president of the free world is bragging, and admits to it, yes, he’s apologized, to sexual assault?” Baldwin asked.
“That is wrong, absolutely,” Sciolaro said. “But here’s the thing, he’s not running to be the pope!”
Trump is “the kind of person that needs to lead our country,” she said. “God can use anybody. He used the harlots. And that’s the thing, it’s all about what God can do. God can do this. God can use this man.”
Baldwin, who at one point put her head in her hands during the interview, wrapped up the segment with this: “Welcome to 2016.”
Later, Kansas GOP executive director Clay Barker said in an email that “Sciolaro was providing her own personal opinions as a supporter of Donald J. Trump for president and was not speaking on behalf of the Kansas Republican Party or any campaign.”
The toothbrush left behind
In December, Overland Park mom and writer Rachel Hillestad wrote a poignant Facebook essay about foster parenting that went viral — with fellow foster parents, former foster children and social workers around the country applauding her.
She was prompted to write when she found the tiny Cookie Monster toothbrush left behind in her car by a recent foster child.
Her post was quickly shared more than 40,000 times and attracted more than 74,000 likes, hearts — and many crying-face emojis.
“Gosh, if I had just one person who cried for me when I left,” one former foster child, now an adult, wrote on her Facebook page.
KC “trophy” mom
No other family in Kansas City can say that BuzzFeed gushed like this about its Halloween costumes: “We Can All Stop Trying Because This Family Just Won Halloween 2016.”
That’s what happened when Denise Hill of Kansas City and her three daughters dressed as golden trophies for Halloween. They typically do group costumes — they were circus folks last year — but this year’s get-ups grabbed national attention.
Hill grabbed gold spray paint and went to town.
Within hours of family members sharing photos on Twitter and Facebook, it seemed the whole world had seen them.