RIGBY – A Rigby man’s toy invention is being considered for a Toy of the Year award.
Jeff Larson grew up playing watermelon ball, a water game similar to football or rugby, at the Ammon swimming pool with his friends. When he went to college, he would play the game at the pool in his apartment complex.
“The games got really intense. We went through a lot of watermelons,” Larson told EastIdahoNews.com.
The reason they played with the fruit is because watermelons would sink to the bottom and slowly float to the surface, making for easy handling in the water.
The watermelons would often break and make a big mess.
That’s when Larson started thinking of a way to play with a ball that looked, felt and floated like a watermelon, yet was durable enough to withstand intense use.
“After college, I kept getting the feeling I needed to do something about this idea,” Larson said.
He put his mechanical engineering degree to work in designing a ball that lets players dribble, kick, bounce, pass and intercept under water. In 2009, Larson began working with a manufacturer.
“I got started selling this on Amazon, and it just took off. Then I decided to license it out to a bigger toy company to reach more people,” says Larson.
Today, the watermelon ball is distributed by PlaSmart Inc. , and is a finalist for a Toy of the Year award.
“Each and every one of the TOTY finalists have brought joy, laughter, and learning to children around the world. From classic board games to innovative tech toys, these playthings represent the ‘best of the best’ in the world of toys and games,” said Steve Pasierb, The Toy Association’s president & CEO in a news release.
From now until January 5, people can vote for their favorite picks in each of the 17 categories. Industry professionals will determine the finalists that will move on to the Gala award ceremony held in New York City Feb. 16.
“This is my first product, and to be a finalist for the first product I’ve come up with is pretty cool,” says Larson. “This is equivalent to being an Oscar nominee in the toy industry. That’s how big it is.”