‘Everyone is crazy for the ball’: How an oversized inflatable beach ball captured the attention and affection of Stoughton

STOUGHTON, Wis. – A misplaced inflatable beach ball has taken Stoughton by storm since blowing loose from a neighbor’s yard.

On July 23, a post in the Stoughton, WI Neighborhood group first caught the community’s attention. ‘Hey! Is this huge ball yours? It’s at the end of Hyland now’ the post read, attached with a photo of the 4-foot tall, multi-color inflatable beach ball.

From there, people started signing it, sending it around, sending it to different streets,” said Stoughton resident John Thompson. “It’s just spontaneous, people just love it.”

In the days since the original post, the ball has been signed, selfied, and shared hundreds of times on the community page, all while moving its way throughout the city.

It’s kind of like the pet,” said Greg Jensen, who serves as a Stoughton Alderman. “I think I’m signed on here some place. My wife has, my dog has.”

Developing a cult following, fans of the ball decided it needed a name.

There was a poll,” Thompson said. “The name was either Rolie Polie Ole, and there was Beachy. Rolie Polie Ole won by a 10 to 1 margin.”

I think that will be the most contentious thing with this,” said Fire Chief Josh Ripp. “What the name actually was.”

Name debates aside, it’s clear the ball has united the city – giving newcomers a way to connect.

We just moved to Stoughton,” said Nancy Perez, who visited the ball with her family Saturday. “We are like ‘Oh my God, everyone’s crazy for the ball’.”

“Stoughton is kind of eclectic,” Jensen said. “We’ve had our fun people and personalities. It seems like things kind of happen spontaneously. It’s fun to see stuff like this instead of the negativity that’s on the social media.”

As the ball develops leaks, tears and rips, the community has stepped up to fix and patch it.

“(We’ve) worked to keep this ball inflated, repaired, alive and moving down the road,” Ripp said.  “To kick it to the next person is a pretty phenomenal thing.”

Jensen says he hopes for the city to name a park after the ball, while Thompson hopes it could be included in next year’s Syttende Mai festival.

It’s uplifting, as spontaneous as it was,” Jensen said. “You’re locked out for a whole year, just having to be so careful. People just ended up saying ‘Hey, this is so much fun. So spontaneous. Let’s go have some fun with this.'”