When Donovan and Ashley Bohn of Linwood Township hosted a kendama party during a snowstorm on Sunday, Feb. 10, 50 kids from Linwood Elementary and Southwest Junior High showed up.
They were joined by special guest Matt “Sweets” Jorgenson, who introduced new kendama merchandise, taught new tricks, signed autographs and awarded prizes in all skill categories.
Kendama is a traditional Japanese toy. It has a ball with a hole, a string, two wooden cups and a wooden spike. Kids catch the ball in a cup or on the spike; the ball can’t get too far away because of the string.
It’s been very popular in local schools this year.
Kelley Bohn, mother of Donovan and Ashley, said parents like kendama because it pulls kids away from the television, computer, and video games. They can play it by themselves or compete with friends. And it helps improve focus and hand-eye coordination.
Jorgenson, President of Sweets Kendamas LLC, has many local connections. “My parents both grew up in Forest Lake,” he said. “I was born there and grew up in Wyoming. I attended school in Forest Lake until 8th grade, then moved to North Branch.”
In 2010 Jorgenson saw a kendama in a snowboarding video and wanted to buy one. After finding out they could be had only from international sources, and the shipping cost more than the toy, he decided to make kendamas more available in the U.S. market.
His first purchase of 600 manufactured abroad came fully painted and assembled, but he was unhappy with the finish quality. Now he buys unfinished pieces that are painted, assembled and packaged in Minnesota.
He sells at both high-end and entry-level prices. Several stores in the Forest Lake area carry the toys.