Story dated April 11, 2005

TCFPA President Todd "PinTed" Andersen reports for Pinball News from the world famous SS Billiards on their latest pinball event

On October 2nd 2004, “SS Billiards” in Hopkins, MN, USA had its first newly formatted customer appreciation party, “Pinball Circus”. It’s hard to believe that an entire circus fit inside a small suburban arcade.

“SS Billiards”, or as we like to call it, “Lloyd’s”.


Due to the popular, but not financial, success of last fall's Circus, a follow up party was held this spring.

Fall 2004 “Pinball Circus
(Note: Used with permission.)
Spring 2005 “Pinball Circus
(Note: Also used with permission.)


Lloyd is the owner of SS billiards and was solely responsible for: organizing, setting up, and hosting the Pinball Circus.

You may recognize the “mug” of our host, “Lloyd the Great” – “ LTG ”.


PBN: “I'd like to ask you just a few questions so that the readers of “Pinball News” can gain an understanding of what “Pinball Circus” is all about.”

LTG: (Lloyd turned, gave his full attention, and nodded his head.)

PBN: “Why did you come up with the idea for Pinball Circus?”

LTG: “I thought it was time for a new theme, for growth with a few ideas I have in the future. The “Goose Parties” each had a separate name, with the name Pinball Circus, it's easier to do domain name, website, T-shirts, etc. The actual idea for the circus came from my studying the Circus Maximus and the gladiator combats ( ludi gladiatorii). And I thought it would be fun to eventually have the party tie in to a vicious pinball tournament with one pinball gladiator left standing at the end. But it takes time to evolve such things.”

PBN: “How did you decide the format of Pinball Circus?”

LTG: “I used the parts I liked of previous parties, and tried to add a few things, and have a circus atmosphere like the balloons and popcorn. So when you walk in you see and smell good things like you would at a circus.”

PBN: “If you didn't make any money form the first Pinball Circus, why would you host another party?”

LTG: “I'm under the misguided belief that it's still fun to get people together from all over and try and have a day of fun, and maybe the chance to expose a few new people to pinball. It's probably too late to do the industry any good, but it may help collectors and the hobby. For the most part the industry won't help, but a few collectors and hobbyists are willing to help, so a lot of the parties are for the people who contribute.”

PBN: “Is the second Pinball Circus gong to be different than the first?

Lloyd: “Very similar. Main difference will be the mugs and shirts are red instead of blue.”

PBN: “Are there going to be more Pinball Circus parties?”

Lloyd: “There will, the fall one October 1st . I haven't decided on 2006 yet. A lot of that may depend on the success of the Mayday Tournament. If that is huge like it's shaping up to be, and is going to return in 2006, I may skip the spring party and try and have a bigger and better fall party.”

PBN: “Thank you for taking the time to do this interview while in the midst of trying to get ready for the Pinball Circus.”

LTG: “Thank you! I hope this helps your article.”


Lloyd knew that the pinball-centric party would probably alienate some of his “regular” pool players. So, as not to interfere with his customers, Lloyd had to set up for Saturday's “Pinball Circus” on Friday night after he closed. Lloyd couldn't afford the newest offering from Stern, “The Sopranos” pinball machine but he did restore an older solid state WMS “Blackout” for the party.

Here you can see Lloyd moving one of his “party games” into his arcade.


Like a “ regular ” circus, you had to have a ticket to get into the “Pinball Circus”. Your $10.00 entrance fee got you free food and drink; and gave you the opportunity of twelve hours of free play - from 12:00pm till 12:00am - on over twenty pinball machines. Ticket sales were day of event only and only available at the door.

One of the serialized entrance tickets to the event. Yes, the novel ticket is water clear.


Well, the party got off to a rousing start. Lloyd came in at about 11:00am to finish setting up. The circus stared at 12:00pm and before 1:00pm about a dozen people had already arrived. Many people, kids to grandparents, attended the circus. Though only a few women competed in the single elimination tournament, many tried for high scores. Though the amount of people varied throughout the day the turnout of women was an estimated 30 to 40 percent for most of the time during the day.

Just a few of the people who couldn't wait to join the circus.


Besides free play on all of the pinball machines, your $10.00 entrance fee got you: an individually numbered souvenir ticket, pizza, popcorn, and pop. In an effort to accommodate everyone, pizzas with three different topping and over a half dozen choices of pop were offered.

Lloyd arranged for pizza to be delivered from “ Papa John's ” every hour and a half.

The “amazing disappearing pizzas”.
Some of the guests enjoying the
“amazing disappearing pizzas”.

At 12.00pm, at 4:00pm, and again at 8:00pm, the TCFPA brought in hand-dipped pretzels for everyone to enjoy. Throughout the entire day, Denise brought in five-dozen batches of fresh home made chocolate chip cookies. Each batch was brought in while the cookies were still warm.

Yum, thanks Denise! (Yes, this arrived full.)


Lloyd planned three tournaments for this installment of Pinball Circus. The first was a ToPS tournament on his newest “Stern” pinball machines. The next was a high score tournament on all of the games. The last, but first to finish was a single elimination tournament.

ToPS Tournament

Lloyd Cesar (leader) started the circus (competitions / festivities / races) by hosting a one-day high score ToPS Tournament. This tournament was held on Lloyd's two ToPS games, “ Elvis ” and “ Lord of the Rings ”. This tournaments started at the opening of Pinball Circus, noon , and continued until closing, midnight . The gladiators (good players) and auctorati (novices), and amazons (female competitors) all competed head to head to earn top scores, therefore earning cash prizes and favor with the “pinball-gods”.


Elvis Tournament Winner

For “Elvis” the winner was, Derek F, who won $25.00.

Lord of the Rings Tournament Winner

For “Lord of the Rings” the winner was also, Derek F, who won another $25.00.

Derek explaining everything pinball to any novices who would listen.

High Score Tournament

Just like the ToPS tournament, this tournament lasted all day as well. Arena (tournament) play was available on any of Lloyd's normal line up and on his “party” pins. Any person who felt that his / her score was a good one, put that score and his/her name in the official scorebook that was kept at Lloyd's pulvinar (desk). Like bestiarii (animal fighters), the life-affirming act of earning high score could be taken away in an instant, when the animal came out in his contender. The person with the highest recorded score on each pinball machine at midnight was a winner. The winners were announced the next day. Due to the limited number of collectable shirts and mugs, not everyone who earned a high score received a commemorative Pinball Circus mug or shirt.

The high score tournament prizes were awarded for the following games:

Lloyd's Normal Games


Attack from Mars

Bram Stoker's Dracula

No Good Go“l”fers

Safe Cracker

Kevin Nagle

Dave S

Nick Foss

Paul Madison

A Pinball Circus mug

A Pinball Circus mug

A Pinball Circus mug

A Pinball Circus shirt

Only one of the rows of pinball machines available: for free play, the high score tournament,
and used in the single elimination tournament.

Lloyd's Party Games


Big Bang Bar


Dan D

Jake Patterson

A Pinball Circus shirt

A Pinball Circus shirt

High score contender on “Blackout”.


Lloyd held many random drawings throughout the day. To qualify for the drawings, all you had to do was to separate your perforated ticket bottom and place it in the jar with the other ticket stubs. So those who arrived early had a better chance of winning than those who arrived later in the day. The drawings were for either a Spring 2005 Pinball Circus T-shirt or a mug.

Eric K. is happy just after he won a Spring 2005 Pinball Circus T-shirt.


The single elimination tournament was best-two-of-three. Competition started at precisely 8:00pm and melee finally subsided at around 1:30am.

Initially, each set of combatants (players) and their weapons (games) were chosen at random. After the initial drawing, the bracket determined the combatants but their games were still chosen at random. Combatants of either sex and of all ages were paired up and pitted against one against the other. Though he had only been playing pinball for two years, eleven-year-old gladiator Jake, destroyed the sixteen-year-old auctorati , Eric S. Jake took his second consecutive win on “ South Park ”; which is Jake's favorite game.

After over five hours of grueling competition, Terry W. and David S were the only two gladiators standing. The glorious victor, Terry W, was spoiled with $100.00 cash and a large trophy.

The second place winner (just another loser) pleaded in vane, “What does second place get?” Like a true roman citizen, someone from the crowd shouted, “the shaft.”

Player on “Sorcerer”.

Jake kick'en some butt on “South Park”.

Terry W. and David S.
Terry W., a humble winner.

“To the victor go the spoils” - Proud tournament champ Terry W. with his trophy.


Lloyd had planned three tournaments for this installment of Pinball Circus: first - the ToPS tournament, next - was the high score tournament and, last - was the single elimination tournament. But what he imposed on us, as we gladly imposed on ourselves, were three races.

Those who attended this circus see pinball not as a mere hobby. They see pinball as truly part of their lives; even an obsession.

The April 2nd, 2005 Pinball Circus was indeed a race. It was a race against both your opponents and simultaneously on the games themselves. It was a race to get the highest score by event's end. It was a race to get a better score than your opponent before three balls had passed.

The few of those who were victorious had part of their lives glorified. The majority, who went home losers, though they gained a fun experience, temporarily lost a part of their lives.

I am no orator but I believe that we can all see the glory and pride of the winners, for whom this article is dedicated. Congratulation winners! I wish that we could hear the loser's spake of their near conquests; over burgers and beer.

Caesar The Great” will be having another set of pinball races on October 1st, later this year. I encourage you to shore up both your skills and courage and compete in the arena that is “the circus”.

Unless otherwise noted, all pictures are courtesy of Pinball Renaissance - TCFPA. Also unless otherwise noted, all pictures were taken with a Sony 3.3 mega-pixel MVC-CD300 digital still camera set to take fine pitch JPGs in auto mode.


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