Date: 13th - 15th May, 2016
Location: Dixon Fairgrounds, 655 South First Street, Dixon, CA 95620, USA

The 20th annual Pin-a-Go-Go took place the weekend after Mother’s Day at the Dixon May Fair in Dixon, California.

This year did not disappoint. In fact, Pin-a-Go-Go just keeps getting better every year and this year was no exception.

Guests waiting to get in to Pin-a-Go-GGo 2016
Guests waiting to get in to Pin-a-Go-GGo 2016

Friday started with the show opening at 1pm to a large crowd of faithful attendees. Later in the day was the Flippin’ Friday kick-off dinner with the presentation of the Free Play award. This year’s recipients were Michael Schiess, founder of the Pacific Pinball Museum, and Melissa Harmon, Director and curator at the PPM.

As always, there were many great games to play this year. Around 270 pinball machines were on site to enjoy for all three days.

Inside the main hall
Inside the main hall

Some highlights of the machines were some rare System 80 Gottlieb games from Steve Charland, P3/Lexy Lightspeed from Multimorphic, and some really rare foreign games lugged all the way up from SoCal by Robert Van Der Velde.

The Archer pinball project from Keith and Randy Elwin, Jersey Jack’s The Hobbit, and Heighway Pinball’s Full Throttle, along with the newest offerings from Stern were also present and were generously lent to the show by Video Amusement in South San Francisco. There was also a great collection of classic EM games in their own room with just bells and chimes clanging out play, including Al Garber’s Bally Fireball.

Saturday started off with the Swap Meet & Flea Market at 10am. There was a great selection of parts and project games to be had, along with other game room must-haves.

The PinGolf tournament was well attended and is said to have been one of the largest PinGolf tournaments in some time anywhere, with over 160 players.  And the pinball machine raffle took place that afternoon at 6pm. This year the first pin to be given away was a Williams Whirlwind, donated By Chris Kuntz, The Pinball Pirate.

Young pinball fans take part in the machine count
Young pinball fans take part in the machine count

The Silent Auction pleased with many items donated by national pinball vendors and local establishments alike. Kids got to count how many games there were on Saturday at 2pm and that is always a lot of fun to watch.

One of the funnest events at Pin-a-Go-Go was the 9th annual Sacramento Pinball Group BBQ.  Put on By Mark (Sparky) Malmberg in the RV site (the Pin-a-Go-Go Village) which is a stone’s throw from the buildings that house the show, it’s a potluck where the Go-Go faithful bring food and drink of all kinds and sit around and talk pinball and other fun stuff.  It’s always a highlight of the weekend, or as several pinheads have been heard to say, it’s the local family reunion.

Jack Guarnieri at the Sacramento Pinball Group BBQ
Jack Guarnieri at the Sacramento Pinball Group BBQ
The BBQ in the RV camp
The BBQ in the RV camp

Sunday saw Sunday Pinball School. Pinball lessons from the pros in small groups free of charge to beginners and intermediates alike.

A second pinball machine donated by Michael Huntsman of Reno was raffled off Sunday afternoon and the other prize raffles took place, and still even more pinball playing ensued.

The two prizes in the pinball machine raffle
The two prizes in the pinball machine raffle

Pinball Clinic was a hit this year offering talks on Reading Schematics, 11 Common Repair Mistakes, How Does a Pinball Machine Think, and what to look for when Buying Your First Pinball Game. There was even a car show right next door!

There was no shortage of vendors this year, with lots of offerings from Planetary Pinball, Pinbits, Cliffy, and Rob Anthony (Borygard on Pinside, along with his friend Taro) who brings lots of cool stuff for games and does pinball board and machine repairs right on site.  Pacific Pinball Museum also brought their silver trailer from the ’50s with five games inside – they call it the Lil’ Ju Ju – and sold some pretty cool T-shirts too.

The Lil' Ju Ju from the Pacific Pinball Museum
The Lil’ Ju Ju from the Pacific Pinball Museum

Other usual suspects were there too; Hawkins & Mueting of Pinball Collector’s Resource with their rows of  pinball paper and other treasures, Rick from Bay Area Amusements, and some other pinball guys selling homegrown California mods and pinball related merchandise.

Starship Fantasies brought backglasses, plastics, ramps and playfields too. Dan and Nifty Nate – California’s own Nifty Pinball – toiled night and day showing people their LEDs and discussing what might look best where.  They also did a bang-up job on the special limited edition lanyards which were only available to people who brought games!

Jersey Jack Guarnieri and Butch Peel from Jersey Jack Pinball were on hand hanging out with the attendees, and Gerry Stellenberg from Multimorphic in Texas (maker of P-ROC and the innovative P3 Pinball platform) was there with his machine which he transformed into several different games over the course of the weekend. Randy Perlow premiered some ColorDMD titles and JJ from Game Exchange was seen milling about the crowds. It was a star-studded weekend!

Pin-a-Go-Go started 20 years ago – just a bunch of Pinthusiasts who brought games to share with fans and future pinheads – and when the organizers found that there was money left over they donated it to charity.  To this day, that is what still happens as the show is now run by a 501(c)3 nonprofit board known as the Northern California Pinball Association, and people bring pinball machines to share because they want others to find the joys of playing pinball.

This year proceeds in excess of $20k were donated to the Dixon Teen Center, while all earnings from the tournament went to the Pacific Pinball Museum.  The citizens of the small town of Dixon roll up their sleeves and help out the show with volunteers who do everything from wristbands to cleaning the bathrooms!  Dixon Rotary put out some awesome food in the food tent, including tri-tip and chicken sandwiches made right on-site.

Every year I bear witness to wonderful things that happen at Pin-a-Go-Go, and this year I saw some of the best yet. An attendee from Reno had a part break on a rare Williams Scorpion on Saturday night. A local pinhead grabbed the part, took it home and handed it back to the Reno pinhead first thing Sunday morning – freshly welded and ready to keep the game running for the rest of the show.

These small acts of pinheads helping pinheads are what makes Pin-a-Go-Go so special. A few years ago – 2014 I think it was – the theme for Pin-a-Go-Go was ‘Peace, Love & Pinball’. Wouldn’t it be nice if the whole world worked that way?

See you all at Pin-a-Go-Go 2017.

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