Date: April 4th & 5th, 2009.
Location: SS Billiards, 732 11th Avenue South, Hopkins, Minnesota 55343, USA.

The Pinball Circus is held twice a year at SS Billiards. Back in October 2007 the Circus was expanded from a single day to cover the whole weekend. Another change was made for the spring 2008 Pinball Circus. As was previously reported, a greater emphasis was to be put on Saturday’s events, allowing Sunday to be a little less structured. However, as was announced and updated, there were two tournaments held on Sunday.

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

As per usual, set up was the sole responsibility of Lloyd. Changing the arcade over to the Circus format began after closing on Friday night and continued into the early hours of Saturday morning. As always, the purpose of setting up “The Circus” overnight was to lessen the impact on the regular customers.

The Circus was scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday so final arrangements began at eleven o’clock Saturday morning. Balloons were inflated while the food and drinks were made ready.

Bryan Kelly (AKA: “Mr. PinFootie”) took his usual post; filling colorful party balloons with helium. This year Bryan got help from Marlowe Koch.

The line up of pinball machines available for free play at the Spring 2009 Circus are shown below in order of grouping.

Corvette, Attack from Mars, Twilight Zone, Medieval Madness, and Demolition Man.
 Also shown are two games for sale Excalibur and Road Show.

Leading this line of games is the newer Stern Indiana Jones followed by: Wheel of Fortune, Spider-Man, (see related Pinball News article), Lord of the Rings and Batman.

Addams Family Collector’s Edition, Pirates of the Caribbean and NASCAR

Also brought in for this Circus were:

Pictured, a very rare Global Warfare

A one of a kind home-conversion version of Ship Ahoy; made digital in 1978

In this picture you can see: a rare and original Big Bang Bar, Taxi, Jacks to Open, and Alien Poker

The majority of the problems across both days of the pinball circus involved drop targets, broken during game play on: Big Bang Bar, Jacks to Open, and Global Warfare. As drop target replacements were not readily available for these older and rarer games, no immediate repair was possible.

Ship Ahoy was given a pre-Circus check and it seemed party ready. But on the first morning of the event, the game would not boot-up. As the Spring 2009 Pinball Circus was already under way, there was no time to troubleshoot the truly unique system of this game.

The only reported problems with Lloyd’s normal games were a switch that had fallen off the saucer on Demolition Man and a wire that had fallen off a coil on Attack from Mars. These two minor problems were fixed on the spot.

Lloyd (a loose screw) fixing a loose wire

The friendly dog at the door pointed the way to circus fun

Besides the friendly greeter, notices of the day’s and upcoming events were posted at the entrance for those who were just joining the Circus

Lloyd also wanted Circus goers to know that out-of-sight pinball machine sales were available. And, most importantly, Lloyd wanted everyone to know up front who helped make the Circus possible.

A nice Comet sold just before the circus. Three games were available for sale at the circus: Jacks to Open, Excalibur and Road Show. Plus, there was a Fathom which could be brought back to collector’s condition with a playfield; available from Bill Davis.

The Road Show sold not a week after the circus. As of the writing of this article, there was a single “lookie-lou” who had inquired about the Jacks to Open and there was much ado about the Fathom, but no other sales have been finalized.

The list of sponsors posted at the door

With a bit of careful review of some of the pictures throughout this article, you may notice that many of the machines were fitted with glare guards.

Wrong Crowd Productions provided PinZero glare guards

As he did for a previous Pinball Circus and May Day Pinball Tournament, Andrew Barney provided Lloyd with pinball machine staples from Pinball Life.

This year Andrew brought and sold out of the very popular Pinball Life beverage management system; available in Left and Right.

PinTed, of the one and only and original Pinball Renaissance, made it possible for Lloyd to sell special color-changing LEDs and Flashers.

New this year, Lloyd sold only specially made PinRen LEDs and kits

Pictured is one LED of the PinRen color-changing Flasher kit especially ordered for this game. Can you identify the game and the insert?

Lloyd had original NOS parts and custom products for sale from his case

Tickets for the event were provided by Triplestack Design. This design firm specializes in wedding invitations and baby announcements, but they make almost any paper product for any event.

Pictured, a two day ticket for the Pinball Circus

A ticket for the Circus cost $25 for both Saturday and Sunday, or $15 for just Sunday. With purchase of a ticket you received unlimited: play on all the machines, cans of pop, hot dogs, and Papa John's magical disappearing pizza. Your ticket also allowed you entry into the pinball tournaments.

On top of all of the food and pinball, throughout the entire day on Saturday, the number on your ticket could be matched for prize drawings. So, those who registered early had a better chance of winning.

Lloyd’s arcade started to fill up about an hour early on Saturday

Shown are just some of the beverages available to Circus goers

The following picture is blurry because I was ever so gently “bumped” by someone rushing to engulf a piece of pizza. Later in the day, despite the pizza frenzy, the entire table stopped when an eleven year old girl tried to get a piece of cheese pizza.

Many slices of pizza were instantly consumed on Saturday

Hot dogs and chips were also available all day Saturday

Pictured are a few of the fellows taking advantage of “free play” to practice before competing in the pinball tournaments.

Some of the competitors in Saturday night pinball

From the red eyes of this player, you can see that “The Joker” has influence

This player was happy to rescue the girl

The first of the tournaments was Saturday Night Pinball.

This tournament began at 6pm and players could register for free. The twenty-two who did had their names drawn in pairs in order to compete against each other. Each match up of players could choose the machine on which to compete and player order. The first person to win two games progressed to the next round. This same format continued until there was a winner.

Competitors concentrating on winning

The Saturday Night Pinball final came down to Dave Gorka and John Jundt. The last game of the final was won by John; who collected $50 and a trophy.

The Saturday Night Pinball tournament winner John

At regular times throughout Saturday, Lloyd held drawing of ticket stubs. Besides helping with balloons, Bryan Kelly also helped draw the ticket stubs. Bryan randomly pulled stubs out of a bucket and Lloyd announced prizes.

The change of having a designated drawer was to avoid what happened last fall at the previous Circus, when the first couple of draws caused much ballyhoo as the people drawing tickets managed to draw their own numbers out of the bucket.

Prizes for this Circus included Pinball Circus mugs and T-shirts from previous events, and other assorted gifts.

The list of the thirty door prize winners, in order of numbers drawn, is:

  • 144 – PB Circus Mug
  • 007 – PB Circus Mug
  • 143 – PB Circus Mug
  • 139 – PB Circus Mug
  • 137 – PB Circus Mug
  • 015 – PB Circus Shirt
  • 017 – PB Circus Shirt
  • 038 – PB Circus Shirt
  • 014 – PAPA Hat
  • 140 – PAPA Hat
  • 128 – PB Sales Shirt
  • 130 – PB Circus Shirt
  • 027 – PB Circus Shirt
  • 129 – PB Circus Shirt
  • 013 – PB Circus Shirt
  • 025 – Beverage Management System
  • 141 – PB Circus Mug
  • 136 – PB Circus Mug
  • 123 – PB Circus Mug
  • 125 – PB Circus Mug
  • 145 – PB Circus Mug
  • 044 – PB Circus Mug

The second competition of the day began promptly at 8pm. This was the Pinball Circus Tournament.

As with the SNP Tournament, the PC Tournament was free to enter for those who had purchased tickets, but players were paired-up and their three games were chosen by the luck of the draw.

Twenty four contestants and their respective games were drawn by Lloyd. Game order preference was usually decided by discovering an open game that was listed for the pair. Player order was then decided by the contestants.

Players “keeping warm” while waiting to compete

The remaining two players continued into the final round and competed as they had all along; in a best two-of-three format. The three finalists were Boyd, John Jundt and Jessie Howard.

The last game of the final round was won by Jessie; who collected: $50, a trophy and a complete entrance package to PAPA.

Lloyd with the Pinball Circus tournament winner Jessie

While the rest of the day's events were taking place, there was a running Goose Egg Tournament held on Indiana Jones. Contestants had to play their game keeping their right hand on the right flipper button and their left hand on the backbox. Jim Stoddard earned the highest score and the $20 cash prize.

A party goer trying the Goose Egg competition.

As usual, there were also ToPS High Score Competitions. These High Score Tournaments were free to play and ran from noon 'til midnight. Each winner earned a $20 cash prize.

John won yet again with ToPS on Batman

Jim won ToPS on
Wheel of Fortune

Jim also won ToPS on

Dan won ToPS on Pirates of the Caribbean

Sunday was a continuation of the Circus; where there was a Zen Tournament held and also the Pinball Masters Tournament.

Before the tournaments began, players got a chance to practice on machines which were still on “free play”.

Various players practicing to compete or just enjoying pinball.

The Zen Pinball Tournament started at 6:00 pm. The tournament was played in the following way: Players paired up, pairs competed against each other and each player of their two person team manned one side of the machine. Manner of competition was - once the ball in play stopped, the pair had to switch sides. Once the ball drained, the other team has its chance to do the same. The team with the higher score after one game was the winner and advanced. The winning Zen team was awarded a trophy and $50 to share.

Zen Tournament winners, Jim and Josh.

The Pinball Masters tournament started at 8:00 pm and continued until there was one best player. The tournament director drew player/game match-ups. This was a single elimination tournament. Because PAPA packages were donated, Lloyd made a change from his “only one” philosophy to include three top places. But, the true master player who made it all the way to the end without a single loss was Nick Foss. Nick collected: $100.00, a trophy and a complete PAPA entrance package.

Dan won third place in the Masters Tournament
and a complete entrance package to PAPA

Jim won second place in the Masters Tournament
and a complete entrance package to PAPA.

This year Nick was the Pinball Master

After an entire weekend of playing pinball, the Spring 2009 Pinball Circus came to an end. Although Lloyd had some help starting this iteration of The Pinball Circus, after close he was left alone to clean up and put things back in time for the opening on Monday morning.

Pictured, a tired but happy Lloyd.

Lloyd made a point to publicly thank all those who had contributed in some way to this latest Pinball Circus.

Dates for both the May Day Pinball Tournament and the fall 2009 Circus are in the Diary section, so start making your plans to visit now.

All pictures are property of SS Billiards and are used with permission and courtesy of LTG .