As It Happens

Why dozens of people named Josh battled it out with pool noodles

The rather spontaneous event, which took place in a field in Lincoln, Neb., attracted about 50 people with the first name Josh who were ready to fight for the right to their name.

What started out as an early pandemic joke morphed into the Battle of the Joshes

Dozens of people with the name Josh duked it out with pool noodle to find out who is the rightful owner of the name Josh via a battle royale in Lincoln, Neb. (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via Associated Press)

Story Transcript

An epic pool-noodle brawl between dozens of people with the same name will go down in history as the Battle of the Joshes. 

"It was a glorious fight," Josh Swain, the mastermind behind the battle royale, told As It Happens guest host Nil Köksal.

The event, which took place in a field in Lincoln, Neb., attracted about 50 people with the first name Josh who were ready to fight for the right to their name. About 1,000 people with different first names cheered on from the sidelines. 

The winner of the pool-noodle battle and the rightful owner of the name was a four-year-old from Lincoln named Josh Vinson, Jr., nicknamed "Little Josh" by the audience.

Swain said Little Josh bested the crowd by slashing at people's ankles with a red pool noodle. He was coronated with a Burger King crown.

Josh Swain, left, declares Lincoln native 4-year-old Joshua Vinson Jr., right, the ultimate Josh. (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via Associated Press)

The idea for the brawl started as a joke. Swain, a 22-year-old college student from Tucson, Ariz., was bored at the beginning of the pandemic. He was also tired of sharing his name with so many other Josh Swains. 

"I have always tried to register my name as my username for social media sites, like just Josh Swain, but unfortunately it's always been taken," he said. 

So, on April 24, 2020, he added as many Josh Swains as he could find to a group chat, challenging them to battle for the right to his name at a specific location in one year's time. 

"As a joke, I thought that like, we need to … figure who is deserving of this title," he said. 

As the battle drew closer, Swain says the idea evolved to include anyone with the first name Josh. Then it began to grow in popularity. 

"When I first sent out the tweet, you know, I thought zero people would come. I didn't think it was going to actually be an event," Swain said. 

"And then like the night before, I was scared like nobody's business and had no idea or any gauge of how many people would show up." 

Swain said he was also worried about people gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic, so he bought about 200 masks and asked people to wear them during the event. 

"I didn't want to come into their home of Lincoln, Neb., and tell them what to do. However, I did strongly encourage it," he said.

While the main event was the battle between the Joshes, Swain did keep one concept from the original idea. 

He and the only other Josh Swain to show up took part in a game of rock, paper, scissors to decide, once and for all, who would walk away the one true Josh Swain. 

Josh Swain, left, originator of the joke, takes on another Josh Swain as they decide the rightful owner of the name Josh Swain via a game of rock, paper, scissors. (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via Associated Press)

Swain — the event's organizer — emerged victorious. And while he said that was awesome, his first decree was to allow the other Josh Swain to keep his name. 

"He was cool enough to show up and he was actually a really awesome guy," Swain said.

Joshua Vinson Jr., a.k.a. Little Josh, is lifted into the air after being declared the ultimate Josh. (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via Associated Press)

By Monday, Swain had raised about $12,000 US for the Children's Hospital & Medical Center Foundation, which provides medical care to children in Nebraska. 

In a twist of fate, Swain learned after the event that Little Josh actually received treatment for seizures at the Children's Hospital when he was two years old, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. 

"So that was just an incredible, like, bow on top of this whole event," Swain said.

Written by Sarah Jackson with files from the Associated Press. Produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes.

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