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There Can Only Be One: Battle Of The Joshes Brings Hundreds To Nebraska

Some have called it Josh Fight or the Josh Battle Royale. Others will remember it simply as Josh vs. Josh vs. Josh.

No matter the title, hundreds of people who share the first name Josh gathered Saturday in Lincoln, Neb., to vie for the "right" to their name. Armed with pool noodles, Joshes from across the country met at Air Park, where they brawled as onlookers with other names cheered from the sidelines.

In the end, it was 4-year-old Lincoln resident Josh Vinson, Jr., dubbed "Little Josh" by his peers, who was crowned the winner. (There was a "Big Josh" too, according to photos from the Lincoln Journal Star.)

(The age mentioned in the tweet was later corrected.)

The idea for the event began with a Facebook message the event's organizer, Josh Swain, sent last year. Under what Swain referred to in a Reddit post as "a spell of pandemic boredom," the 22-year-old college student from Arizona started a group message with as many people he could find on Facebook who shared his first and last name.

In doing so, he joined the many others who have sought out their namesakes online. But Swain's message had a twist: an invitation to his name doppelgangers to duel for the right to be known as Josh Swain, complete with a date, April 24, 2021, and a random set of coordinates.

"We fight, whoever wins gets to keep the name," he said. "Everyone else has to change their name, you have a year to prepare, good luck."

The message was a "complete joke," Swain said in the Reddit post. But after sharing screenshots of the conversation on Twitter, the Internet responded with meme-filled fervor — enough to convince Swain to make the journey to Lincoln, Neb., to "defend his name."

At Saturday's event, which doubled as a food drive and fundraiser, there were not one, but two Josh Swains at Air Park. (The original coordinates Swain selected happened to be located in the middle of a farm, so he moved the location to a more public setting.)

The name twins, Josh of Arizona and Josh of Omaha, Neb., duked it out to be known as the preeminent Josh Swain in a tense battle of rock, paper, scissors. With a final rock-beats-scissors, the event's organizer emerged victorious.

The Swainbowl was followed by the pool noodle fight, which was open to any person with the first name Josh and later, people of all names who wanted to join the mayhem. A live stream of the event was viewed by people from as far as Norway and Sweden, who could tune in to see the hundreds of Joshes, some dressed in Star Wars, Spider-Man and other superhero-themed costumes.

By Sunday, the Josh Swain Fund had raised more than $10,000 for the Children's Hospital and Medical Center Foundation, which provides medical services to children across Nebraska.

In a Reddit post following the event, Swain — now known as "THE Josh Swain" — said that he didn't have "a single idea how the event would play out" and had worried about how many people would show up. But the result, he said, was a gathering that was "incredibly respectful, polite, joyful, and just awesome overall."

"Man, you guys absolutely rocked it," he said. "From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for making the Josh Swain Battle Royale, Josh Fight, JoshvsJoshvsJosh, etc. one of the greatest events of my entire life."

Some Redditors suggested establishing the battle as an annual tradition with a new name, location and charitable cause each year. One suggestion for next year's name? Jenny Smith.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.