Date: May 17th - 19th, 2013
Report by Mario Van Cleave
"Flippin’ Awesome" was the only way to describe this year's show.
The show was held at the fairgrounds in Dixon from Friday May 17th through Sunday May 19th. It seems every year the organizers, support groups, and attendees manage to top the year before.
This time the show expanded to add another building. That was a first. I often wonder how far it will go, as 2013 was a truly awesome year for the California Pin-a-Go-Go in Dixon.
Dixon is a small town that is starting to gain some attention because of its county fair atmosphere and old gold rush western town charm. With a population of about 16,000 it seems so peaceful and rustic. The locals have always very warmly welcomed the yearly invasion of pinheads.
So Pin-a-Go-Go is located "in the middle of everywhere", as we are only 28 miles from the Sacramento International Airport (SMF) and about an hour away from San Francisco. Six Flags is 36 miles away, you are near the picturesque Napa Valley, or in another direction California's Gold Country, and a short distance from Old Sacramento - home to the famous California State Railroad Museum.
Ever seen Lake Tahoe in the Spring? It's just a little over 2 hours away. Jelly Belly Factory Tours are close - only a half hour away - and right next door is Budweiser who also has free (hiccup) brewery tours!
Pin-a-Go-Go is surrounded by lots of places to see and things to do! It’s not just a pinball show, it’s a complete family adventure.
This year there were 267+ games - 17,000 square feet of pinball - including many from the collections of Sacramento Pinball Group members Susi and Todd DeStefani, the Pacific Pinball Museum, some rare and cool games from the East Bay Pinball League and lots of pins from collectors willing to share their pinball love from as far away as Lake Arrowhead and Nevada. Pin-a-Go-Go is truly a 'community show' that is only here to spread the cheer!
Finding space for them all became a problem Saturday as the games kept coming. Unfortunately a very small number never made it onto the floor it was already so packed. A few more got caught up in the hospital and didn’t make it out. The crew was busy trying to make sure that there were a mix of themes and not too many of one title. That was tough.
Local advertising and the show's past offerings brought out a record crowd. It was a beautiful weekend as well. Almost every year another event, either a dog show, classic car show, or RV show is also held on the grounds.
A classic car show shared the venue this year, so some attendees got a double dose of their passions.
Once again there was an outdoor pinball and arcade flea market. It has started to grow in proportion to the show itself.
Celebrities even find there way here. Doug Watson made the venture and was full of stories, autographs, and smiles for everyone. The show had 17 games representing his art nearby.
Jersey Jack also made the trip out to Pin-a-Go-Go. He didn’t have a booth but made a great showing by talking with pinheads.
Set up time is special as you get to see everyone hauling in all the games. The styles used to load and unload games is intriguing. Anyone with a new gadget for moving pins draws a crowd. You get to see who has rigged their appliance dolly differently this year, as well.
The Expansion Room soon began to be populated.
The EM Room was in full swing once again.
Here the little ones get a look at an age long before they were born. The cartoon like backglasses really catch their eye. If you are a die-hard EM woodrail fan this picture has to make you smile.
We mentioned the first ever use of an expansion room. The show has been growing ever since its inception.
Back to the main room, since Pin-a-Go-Go has long been a one room show.
The main hall with its high ceiling has always presented great acoustics. A large amount of effort is put into placing the electric drops, wall artwork, and vendor tables so they are always carefully laid out. The staff puts a lot of effort into the planning.
This year the games were all in great shape and it was rare that a game did not work. When a fault was discovered it was dealt with quickly.
Here’s a treat from the past.
Pinball is not only for the guys!
No matter what age. It’s kind of ironic that she is playing this game.
Pin-a-Go-Go has a learning forum known as 'The Pinball Clinic'. At these sessions, any newbie can learn the history and nuances of the game, how to care for your game, and other great tidbits of information and demonstrations.
Jersey Jack's The Wizard of Oz has outlived its critics and now has a pretty good fan base. The updated software and graphics have made this a very desirable game. With a playfield rich in artwork and color, you really can’t pass up a chance to play it at the show. If you are fortunate enough to be able to own one, that’s even better!
Word is the Nellie at Pin-a-Go-Go is kind of special. According to Greg Freres, it’s supposedly the only Big Juicy Melons put together outside of the Whizbang factory.
With the local television exposure, more and more people are making it a family day out. We discovered some 'locals' actually lived almost 100 miles away
Here's a full list of machines at Pin-a-Go-Go 2013, courtesy of Josh Lehan:
It’s not a pinball show without vendors. Vendors start out the show at a substantial loss economically as there are hidden costs to deal with in making this trip. The vendors are certainly not taken for granted at Pin-a-Go-Go.
Taro Anthony was asleep. Probably up all night chasing switch matrix faults. If you want to make sure I put your picture in the articles bring your dog. I’m a sucker for those furry guys.
Hawkins-Mueting - you really have to stop and browse these guys' booth. What they bring is incredible. From all kinds of literature to glass and many other items. It's hard to leave this booth without finding some piece of treasure.
A special mention to Rick Bartlett of Bay Area Amusements/Planetary Pinball - a huge asset to this show. As always, Rick painstakingly brings a large inventory of pinball parts, donates to the silent auction and raffle, and this year headed up the South Bay load of games with Mike Hafner and Mark Birsching.
Don Highley is not only a quality show vendor, he also lends a lot of behind the scenes help and muscle.
The Gligorea’s pick up every task from repairs to the welcome desk and the raffles. They graciously give up a lot of time and effort to the show.
A side note here; notice the 'Color DMD' sign? This show had the largest pool of color DMDs at any show so far.
This year two games were donated. One by Cindy Ruggiero of Santa Clara - a Stern Stars pinball machine - and the second from Jim and Joan Mumaugh of Vacaville - a William's Teacher's Pet pinball machine.
This years show was supported by donations from many private individuals and 27 pinball related business.
So a very big "thank you" to:
From it's inception, Pin-a-Go-Go has been about perpetuating the love of pinball to others. When it began to make a financial profit it was decided to donate it to youth charities, and that tradition continues 17 years later. In 2013 the proceeds were divided as follows:
Three cheers for these two organizations who helped out with the show in all kinds of volunteer capacities including clean-up and two thumbs up to the Dixon Teen Center for doing a great snack bar with fresh-baked pizza, hot dogs and an assortment of snacks and baked goods.
Chris Kuntz for his time with the Pinball Clinic, and his always available show pinball repair service.
An honorable mention to Jeff Stern who made the trip down from Washington and opened a booth for Sunday.
Robert Van Der Velde made the trip from southern Cal and brought some of his collection of European-manufactured pinball games, including Jolly Park and the incredibly rare Verne’s World. Sorry I wasn’t able to find pictures.
Bay Area legend and Gottlieb System 80 guru Steve Charland, who brought his stunning Mars God of War with his own design of illuminated flipper mod. A lot of people are unaware that Steve also pioneered the illuminated playfield posts. That idea was quickly grabbed by other vendors.
Thanks to Thumperdome and MarinaGirl for many of the photos in this article.
Some final shots from the playing floor.
One last photo. Here is a wide-angle shot of the main room taken by the talented Steve Tsubota.
Don't miss Pin-a-Go-Go 2014 with special guest Steve Ritchie, The "King of Flow"!
© Pinball News 2014