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The History of Thunder Sticks (Korea’s Top Export?)


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a day in the life of the hammer-wielding Norse god, Thor? With the mighty hammer Mjolnir, you can summon and control the powers of the storm. Among all, the coolest special effect must be the thunder and lightning combo which daunts the adversaries with its ear-splitting thunderclap. Well, if you envied his power, you can steal his thunder and experience the life of a hero (well, sorta).

How? You can grab a pair of thunder sticks (a.k.a. Cheerstix, bangers, or bambams), inflate them, and strike them together and voila! You just replicated Thor’s powerful thunderclap. These sticks, which have gotten extremely popular as a cheering tool especially at sporting and political events, were invented just about three decades ago.

In the early 1990’s a Korean firm invented and introduced the first generation of the sticks, made of polyethylene. It was a long tube to which air had to be blown into using a straw. It was then bent to form a V shape, and struck together, making noise that is 10 times louder than clapping. In 1994, the LG Twins, a Korean baseball team was the first to adopt this new gadget, and everyone in the crowd was holding a pair of the sticks. They became an instant it.

Despite its novelty, however, it also had a downside. The problem was that people just tossed away the straws they used to inflate the sticks. It made reusing the sticks difficult (cumbersome), and created a huge pile of rubbish after an event.

In 2001, another Korean firm called Nepos, introduced more advanced sticks. Inspired by pool tubes, they used PVC for enhanced durability. The most significant improvement was that they could be inflated without a straw. To maximize user-friendliness, they installed air pumps at stadiums. After an event, they simply deflated the sticks and took them home, to reuse for their next visit.

They also gained popularity overseas. In 2002, the Anaheim Angels became the first to introduce these sticks to Major League Baseball. Fans loved them, and they became the hottest souvenir of the 2002 World Series. Today, you can see them used in many different occasions that attract large crowds such as political rallies or protests.

Here is a fun fact about thunder sticks. In 1994, the LG Twins, the first team to introduce the gadget won the Korean Series (the Korean equivalent of the World Series). In 2002, the Anaheim Angels took home the World Series trophy, effectively proving the mighty power of thunder!