Over the past year, people have had to reinvent their routines, including finding new ways to stay entertained and connected. Errol Anderson — now living in Denver but originally from Jamaica — took advantage of this time to develop his own activity: an outdoor, interactive game called Popongo. The idea “sparked in the midst of quarantine after being invited to a close friend’s small backyard get-together,” said Anderson.
After receiving the invitation, Anderson searched online to find a fun, outdoor and COVID-friendly game to bring along. “I realized that there was a desperate need for more options for social and interactive lawn games,” he said. “I started jotting down ideas on creating a game of my own.”
Logistically, the game consists of a hand-painted board, numbered cups, and special Popongo balls. Players toss the balls into the cups from 15 feet away and earn points through a competitive scoring system. Unlike cornhole, the opposing team can rearrange your cups to make your throws easier or more difficult. Anderson describes the game as one that “anyone can win.” He and his team have received numerous inquiries from people who’ve seen photos of the game suggesting that Popongo is like cornhole. He retorted, “that is like suggesting that checkers is the same game as backgammon because they are both games you lay on a table and sit and play,” said Anderson. “If you play Popongo once, it is likely you will never feel the need to play cornhole again. If cornhole has nationally televised tournaments, we are excited for the future of Popongo,” he said.
Originally from Montego Bay, Anderson’s Jamaican heritage influenced the choice of colors on the board. Black, green and gold are the colors of the Jamaican flag, while black also stands for the “strength and creativity of the people, green for the amazing vegetation, gold for the beautiful bright sun, red to represent Mother Africa, and blue for the amazingly gorgeous skies and ocean waters of the Caribbean.”
The team lovingly handcrafts each board at their downtown Denver factory. In addition, Anderson pointed out that each board is one of a kind, with a different grain in the wood. “We put a lot of effort into the design and manufacturing process of the boards. When you buy one, you will have the only one that looks like yours,” he said. “No other game on the market, that I know of, can say that and mean it.”
The boards are made in partnership with Desibl Studios, which is owned and operated by Keesh Pankey.
“Launching Popongo as a Colorado company, and being able to partner with another minority-owned business to set up shop and make the boards here in Denver is my contribution to the pride, jobs, and growth of this amazing state and city,” Anderson said. Colorado residents “are dedicated to supporting local businesses and efforts to make positive contributions to the state and its economy,” he said. “As my home away from home, I am proud to be a resident of Denver.”
Anderson never planned to start this company but nonetheless, he’s looking into new options for the Popongo board and other ways to enhance the playing experience.
“Who knows what the future holds for other games?” he asked. “Creating Popongo has given me an opportunity to play a role in getting people together to share fun times and create memories worldwide. I feel thankful and honored.”
Popongo sets are available on its website.
All photography by Kori Hazel.