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WhomBatz: from Fireweed to World Domination

February 22, 2015

It started with fireweed, but that left welts. Brothers Luke, Eirin, Duney and Aube Strickland were rambunctious boys, and “sword fights” a favorite form of play. They worked to pad and perfect their fireweed swords so they wouldn’t leave such livid marks, and eventually, after much trial and error practiced among one another, WhomBatz were the result. And from those humble beginnings, the brothers, still kids at heart, are ready to take the world by storm.

“As kids we used to love to play around outside and generally get up to no good, getting into berry blow gun wars with cranberries and old dried out cow parsnip stalks, and sword fighting each other with fireweed, which tended to raise a lot of welts,” Duney said.

While the boys didn’t really mind the welts and bruises from their fireweed swords, mom sure did. But instead of acquiescing to her desire that they find more pastoral pursuits, they began attempting to pad the fireweed.

“That eventually evolved into making padded swords that didn’t leave quite the welt that the fireweed would,” Duney said. “Over the years our designs got more elaborate and we refined our design and techniques to make them, and since we had so much fun playing with them, it finally dawned on us that if we worked for a while and made a bunch we might be able to sell them at the Fair. We started out building them in our parents’ garage and each made a few hundred dollars our first year, which to us felt like a fortune. Since then we’ve added new designs and gotten faster at making them, though it’s still a big job leading up to the Fair.”

Alaskans are already familiar with WhomBatz, as epic WhomBatz gladiatorial combat has become a much anticipated part of the Alaska State Fair for many since the brothers first set up their booth when Duney was still a freshman in high school.

It turns out that folks in Alaska aren’t the only people agog over Whombatz.

“We eventually realized that we might be able to spread outside of Alaska and test out our product outside,” Duney said. “We finally settled on WhomBatz as both a name for our company and a name for the toy itself; whom because of the sound they make when they hit against each other and bat for their
shape.”

Not only are there a variety of WhomBatz available to fit the mock fighting style of almost any combatant, there’s even a WhomBatz book trilogy in the works for the more cerebral Whombatz warriors, written by Luke’s wife, AdriAnne, a published young adult author, telling the tale of the origin of Whombatz, which will be available soon on the WhomBatz website and on Amazon.

“We also moved some of our production out of the garage and so our main WhomBatz line is now
professionally made and we’re continuously refining the design so that they stay awesome looking, durable, safe, and most importantly, fun to play with,” Duney said.

Last fall, the brothers toured much of the Lower 48, setting up booths at state fairs across the country, and the reception, they say, has been fantastic. And in February, they’ll introduce WhomBatz at the premier toy expo in the world, the 112th International Toy Fair, being held this year in New York City at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center February 14-17.

WhomBatz LLC, built on an idea that began in Palmer with no more than a few stalks of fireweed, will be set up in booth 4312.

But don’t think that the Strickland brothers will let all their success go to their heads or forget where they’re from. Though they’ve already booked at many Lower 48 State Fairs in 2015, the Alaska State Fair, where their idea took root and grew as fast as fireweed, will ever be dear to their hearts.

“As with every year and no matter how much we’re able to grow, the Alaska State Fair remains the perennial highlight of the year,” Duney said. “It’s great to get feedback from families that have been supporting us for years and keep coming back to replenish their arsenals and look for new products.”