Date: October 20th & 21st, 2007.
Location: SS Billiards, 732 11th Avenue South, Hopkins, Minnesota, USA . 55343.

The Pinball Circus is held twice a year at SS Billiards but the October 2007 one was expanded from a single day to cover the whole weekend.

It's hard to believe an entire circus can fit inside © PinTed

Set up began after closing on Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday so the Circus didn't impact on the regular customers too much. Machines were re-arranged and some repairs carried out to reduce the work needed on Saturday morning.

The Circus was scheduled to begin at midday on Saturday but before that time people were turning up with machines to unload and set up, the pool tables were covered, balloon needed inflating and the food and drinks needed preparing in readiness for the opening.

Derek sets up his Knockout while Todd investigates a problem with Demo Man

The regular games at SS Billiards used for the Circus were: NASCAR, Banzai Run, Pinball Magic, Medieval Madness, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Spider-Man, Lord Of The Rings, The Addams Family, Corvette, Attack From Mars, Twilight Zone, Indianapolis 500, Demolition Man, Tales From The Crypt, Eight Ball Deluxe Limited Edition and Dracula.

Many of the machines used a display guard as shown in the picture below.

These plastic guards fit between the playfield glass and the rear glass guide and prevent the dot matrix display reflecting in the playfield glass and obscuring the features at the back of the machine.

The setting up continues...

Lloyd also brought in an original Big Bang Bar for the Circus, Derek and Tina brought a Knockout - the sole electromechanical machine at the event while Eric brought a Flipper Football which proved to be hugely popular and attracted a constant group of players all day Saturday.

The Flipper Football received much attention

Jason supplied a Stern Nine Ball, John brought along a Comet and Funhouse while Matt had his Who Dunnit at the Circus. On Sunday, Jason swapped his Nine Ball for a Family Guy.

Two day tickets for the Pinball Circus

Tickets for the Circus cost $20 for a single day pass or $30 for both days. With the ticket you received unlimited play on all the machines from midday to midnight, cans of drink, hot dogs supplied by Pinball Renaissance, regular deliveries of the magical disappearing pizza from Papa John's - one moment it was there, the next is was gone - throughout the day, entry into the prize draws and entry into the tournaments.

High-speed photography captured the pizzas as they disappeared

The only exception was the Pinball Masters tournament on Sunday where entry cost $25. All of these entry fees were split to make the prizes for the top three places.

Players on the Capcom Flipper Football

The first of the tournaments began at 6pm on Saturday with the opening round of Saturday Night Pinball. Players could register for free and the 21 who did were drawn in pairs or a group of three to compete against each other. Each player could choose a machine to play and the first to win two games progressed to the next round.

The 10 who progressed were then paired up again for 5 two-player matches using the same format. The 5 who progressed to the third round were put into a group of 2 and a group of 3 with the winner of each going into the final.

So the Saturday Night Pinball final was between Jesse Howard and Mike Reul.

Mike plays the last game of the final on Medieval Madness as Jesse watches

The last game of the final was won by Jesse who collected the $50 first prize from Lloyd.

Lloyd with Saturday Night Pinball tournament winner Jesse

At irregular times through the day Lloyd would ask for a volunteer to draw tickets out of a bucket and award prizes.

The prize draw takes place

The first couple of draws caused much amusement as the people drawing tickets managed to draw their own names out of the bucket. Prizes included Pinball Circus mugs, t-shirts, wood-encased pinball balls and other assorted gifts.

The second competition of the day began at 8pm and was the Pinball Circus tournament. Once again it was free to enter and players were paired-up with the first to win two games progressing. This time though, the machines to be played by each of the 11 pairs were pre-selected by Lloyd.

The 11 winners went through to the next round to form 4 pairs and a group of 3. The resulting 5 players were split in two groups with the winner of each going into the final. The two finalists were Jesse Howard and Eric Fisher.

Eric watches as Jesse plays the last game in the final of Pinball Circus

As in the earlier Saturday Night Pinball, Jesse came out the winner to collect the $100 prize.

Jesse collects his second prize of the day from Lloyd

While the rest of the day's events were taking place, there was a running Goose Egg tournament run on Medieval Madness. Competitors had to play a game using only one hand - the other hand had to be behind their back and no other parts of the body could be used.

Once again it was Jesse who held the highest score for much of the day but Dave G took a late victory with his 26.5 million score to take the $30 prize.

The Pinball Circus tournament continued late into the night and finished just after midnight - the official close of the first day's events. However, for those hard souls who stayed near the end, there was a special reward with a Midnight Madness celebration.

Lloyd has some Midnight Madness

Anyone willing to stand up and tell a joke, sing a song or related a story could win a special edition Midnight Madness t-shirt or mug.

Sunday was a continuation of the Circus although there was a smaller turnout which led to some of the planned mini-tournaments being cancelled. However the main Pinball Masters did go ahead albeit with a smaller field.

The basic format remained the same with the six competitors split into pairs and playing on three pre-selected machines. The first player to achieve two wins progressed to the final round. Those three were Nick Foss, Derek Fugate and Martin Ayub.

The final required one of the contestants to achieve three wins to claim first place. Derek got off to a good start winning on Who Dunnit. Martin drew level with a win on Big Bang Bar but Derek took the lead again by winning on Spider-Man. Three more machines were chosen for play and Martin drew level again by winning Banzai Run but it was Derek who secured his decisive third win on the fifth game - Pirates Of The Caribbean - with 218 million to Martin's 117 million and Nick's 110 million.

So Derek took the $100 first prize. Martin and Nick each got their $25 entry fee back as second and third prizes.

Lloyd with Pinball Masters winner Derek Fugate

A final round of prize draws resulted in more t-shirts and mugs finding new owners and as a nice gesture to those who hadn't won yet, all the remaining tickets also won a prize.

The final prize draw of this Pinball Circus

And with that, the autumn 2007 Pinball Circus came to an end and it was time to pack away, clean up and put things back in time for the opening on Monday.

Thanks to Lloyd for another weekend of fun and games. Events such as Pinball Circus help raise the profile of pinball in the community and act as a focal point for regular customers to join with out-of-towners. It does, however, need people to turn up and support the efforts made.

To help boost the spring 2008 Pinball Circus, the balance may change slightly to put more emphasis on the Saturday, making Sunday a more relaxed and less structured day. Dates for both 2008 Circuses are in the Diary section, so start making your plans to visit now.


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© Pinball News 2007