Date: 19th-21st May, 2017
Location: Dixon Fairgrounds, 655 South First Street, Dixon, CA 95620, USA

Pin-a-Go-Go 2017 has come and gone.

The poster for Pin-a-Go-Go 2017
The poster for Pin-a-Go-Go 2017

The California pinball show had another highly successful three-day event in beautiful Dixon California. The weather was warm and sunny and the attendees were many as it once again filled the two large buildings at the Fair Grounds. As usual people came from all over the west coast and quite a few drove, or flew in, from other states. This author flew back for the show from Tennessee.

This show was the 21st at the Fairgrounds. It has always been surrounded by other events including car shows, a small carnival, and dog shows. You never really know what to expect and the anticipation can really work on you. Sometimes the weather can also surprise you. From hot enough to cook on your car’s hood to pouring rain. Carrying a set of tarps is not uncommon.

The show’s staff do an incredible job. Over many past shows I have witnessed some amazing organizational feats from this group. An awesome bunch of pinball enthusiasts that put in countless hours of their time. The dedication to providing an amazing show is always obvious.

This year’s show was in many ways bittersweet. Many of us are still in shock at the passing of long time pinball icon, and personal friend Steve Charland, (aka Blown Fuse and System 80 Nut). A memorial was in place to honor Steve and his wonderful family. His wife Cathy and their daughters, Aubrey and Amber were in attendance. Make sure to read to the end of the article for more of the memorial.

Steve Charland

Wednesday and Thursday before the show, the annual ‘Fix-A-Thon’ at Matt Christiano’s ranch in Paicines was dedicated to the memory of Steve. The focus was all on System 1 and System 80 game repair. Tim Mieghan, Bill Witzel, and Lou Perazzoli made it down from the northwest to join the rest of us. Working on those old games brought back a lot of memories.

The Pin-a-Go-Go show gets plenty of local PR with front man Steve Faith handling the media. Here Good Day Sacramento is covering the event.

Local CBS-owned CW31 reports from Pin-a-Go-Go
Local CBS-owned CW31 reports from Pin-a-Go-Go
Good Day Sacramento interviews Steve Faith
Good Day Sacramento interviews Steve Faith
Even the cameraman and reporter got in a few games on T2
Even the cameraman and reporter got in a few games on T2

The Thursday load-in is always interesting to watch take place. Games wander in on all kinds of dollies, lift carts, home-made movers, and by good old two guys carrying them. Some come complete and ready to plug in, and others in pieces. The entire floor looks like a repair shop for hours.

The first games arrive
The first games arrive
Vendor tables are also being set up
Vendor tables are also being set up

And it’s not just the main room. The Classic EM Room is always a treat to watch unfold.

The Classics EM Room
The Classics EM Room
The Classics EM Room
The Classics EM Room

And were ready! Let the games begin.

The Main Hall
The Main Hall
Pin-a-Go-Go 2017
That didn’t take long
Then there is the line outside still forming
Then there is the line outside still forming

Atari legend Dan Kramer was manning the program podium. You don’t get past Dan without a program. You’ve seen a few hints now so can you guess this year’s show theme?

Dan Kramer - getting with the program
Dan Kramer – getting with the program
Eric and Brad do a Q&A on 2018’s Golden State Pinball Festival
Eric and Brad do a Q&A on 2018’s Golden State Pinball Festival
Steve Tsubota with the “eye in the sky” - awesome photos from Steve
Steve Tsubota with the “eye in the sky” – awesome photos from Steve

With Friday being the opening day, the real anticipation is always for the weekend. It’s that time of the year to renew friendships, play games, buy parts, get memorabilia, relax and let the rest of the world just be on hold for three days.

The BBQ in the parking lot is always a fan favorite. Ask Jack about it.

Butch and Jack staying refreshed
Butch and Jack staying refreshed
Fun in the sun
Fun in the sun
Maybe too much fun? I often wonder what these guys will tell their grandkids when they ask to explain this picture
Maybe too much fun? I often wonder what these guys will tell their grand-kids when they ask to explain this picture

Back to the Hall.

Planetary Pinball Supply brought the new Attack from Mars Remake for display. This machine had an illuminated backbox side art mod that is not part of the production, so if you liked it you will need to get it elsewhere.

The Attack from Mars Remake with illuminated backbox side art
The Attack from Mars Remake with illuminated backbox side art

Another PAGG fan favorite was Houdini. You got a free T-shirt for playing it Saturday.

This game was really fun. The only real negative comment about it was the long bonus countdown sequence. The ball launching up the left side of the playfield in midair to the trunk was pretty awesome. Never saw it miss. The game was smooth to play.

Houdini from American Pinball
Houdini from American Pinball

Rod Zombie’s Spookshow International. Wow, you have to play this (if you can handle the language). Extremely fast play.

Rob Zombie's Spookshow International from Spooky Pinball
Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International from Spooky Pinball

You don’t have to be a ‘pinball wizard’. The fun thing about the games and the attendees is they find their favorites within a few hours. Obviously, there are lines behind the new games but if you are a fan of games from the past most likely you’ll log plenty of game time on those classics.

Games for everyone
Games for everyone
Always a favorite with the cross-over video crowd
Always a favorite with the cross-over video crowd

Pin-a-Go-Go also has its own flair for those who just like to be themselves.

Keeping with the theme, these kids were in the Spirit!
Keeping with the theme, these kids were in the Spirit!
We even had a Unicorn!
We even had a Unicorn!
And talk about what would have been an awesome flyer for PUNK!!!
And talk about what would have been an awesome flyer for PUNK!!!

Family fun for all.

Something many people have now forgotten is how these games are not likely anywhere in the public anymore. The days of 7-11s having games is over., and there are not many arcades outside of amusement parks. A recent visit to the local Walmart revealed a small game room at one of the entrances, but not one pinball.

This family is getting a real treat playing some games from the late '70s through the '90s in the second hall
This family is getting a real treat playing some games from the late ’70s through the ’90s in the second hall
(right) Steve Ritchie’s Game of Thrones! - this picture was taken before show opening, but the game was almost always busy
(right) Steve Ritchie’s Game of Thrones! – this picture was taken before show opening, but the game was almost always busy
A common sight - three to four-deep in line
A common sight – three to four-deep in line
The same in the EM Room
The same in the EM Room
The same in the EM Room
The same in the EM Room
The unique and new games on hand - here, America's Most Haunted is getting attention
The unique and new games on hand – here, America’s Most Haunted is getting attention
Dialed In!
Dialed In!
Houdini, next to Bride of Pinbot 2.0
Houdini, next to Bride of Pinbot 2.0
Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters
Then there was the Gottlieb System 1 and System 80 row
Then there was the Gottlieb System 1 and System 80 row

Thanks to Pinball Molly for her efforts in getting Pink Panther up from LA.

Word has it she was up until the wee hours before heading north for the show just getting this gem working
Word has it she was up until the wee hours before heading north for the show just getting this gem working
Gottlieb's Pink Panther
Gottlieb’s Pink Panther

As usual Pin-a-Go-Go is pet friendly. We are all used to seeing Taro Anthony at the shows, as well as other fur babies.

Furry friends
Furry friends
Furry friends
Furry friends

How often has someone told you pinball was a male dominated hobby? You’d be amazed at the ladies’ love and support for the game.

Throughout the hobby women of all ages are involved in so many ways, from fund-raisers to tournament organization, artwork for shows, raffle table set-up and organization, vendors, wrist band attachment, and so much more.

Then they even find time to fit in a few games
Then they even find time to fit in a few games
Others are just here to enjoy
Others are just here to enjoy
The Charland ladies, Cathy, Amber, and Aubrey get in some game time on Rocky & Bullwinkle
The Charland ladies, Cathy, Amber, and Aubrey get in some game time on Rocky & Bullwinkle
Dressed for some Totem
Dressed for some Totem
This picture is a little on the Dark Side
This picture is a little on the Dark Side

How about the kids? Watching these youngsters on EM classics is heartwarming. These are games their grandparents might have played.

A young Wizard!
A young Wizard!
One youngster enjoying a Gottlieb wedgehead
One youngster enjoying a Gottlieb wedgehead
Surf's-up!
Surf’s-up!

Tournaments

Pin-a-Go-Go also has a pin golf tournament.

Trophies!
Trophies!

Pin Golf winners:

  • Open winner: Per Schwarzenberger
  • Novice winner: Xavier Marin

To see all the results and participants go to: pagg.tomlogic.com

Tournament details
Tournament details
Kids Tournament
Kids Tournament
Playing on Wizard!, Paragon and Doctor Who
Playing on Wizard!, Paragon and Doctor Who

Kids Tournament winner:

  • Gabriel Smith took home the first place trophy.

To see all the participants and scores go to: tinyurl.com/paggkt2007

Pinball Medics

You may notice the red shirt gang working the floor.

The Pinball Medics are on the job
The Pinball Medics are on the job

The pinball hospital is a vital part of the show. When a game is too ill to fix on the floor it ends up behind this door for emergency attention.

Where sick games are made better
Where sick games are made better

Outside of the Medics we have one of the west coasts best technicians on hand. Chris Kuntz of T Minus One has rescued more than a few games at every show.

Chris at work on another game
Chris at work on another game

The Raffle

The raffle at Pin-a-Go-Go has been amazingly successful. Each year attendees have taken home some great prizes.

Raffle prizes
Raffle prizes
Raffle prizes
Raffle prizes
Raffle prizes
Raffle prizes

And…you can even win a pinball machine to take home.

Entering the pinball machine prize draw
Entering the pinball machine prize draw
The two prizes; Diner and Little Chief
The two prizes; Diner and Little Chief

The Outdoor Flea Market

A Saturday tradition started a few years back. This allows for those that may not be there all weekend to bring items to sell. This year there was a lot to choose from.

Henry studies a few backglasses
Henry studies a few backglasses
Posters!
Posters!
Looks like Art found a keeper
Looks like Art found a keeper
Games!
Games!
More games!
More games!
Small parts and other entertainment
Small parts and other entertainment

Helm brought some cool stuff.

Matt Christiano, (in orange), of PPS is trying to decide, “Is that glass better than the one I have in my game?” - a common pinball dilemma
Matt Christiano, (in orange), of PPS is trying to decide, “Is that glass better than the one I have in my game?” – a common pinball dilemma
More from the flea market
More from the flea market
More from the flea market
More from the flea market
More from the flea market
More from the flea market
More from the flea market
More from the flea market

The Vendors

As a former vendor, I can relate to the amount of work involved in having a booth at any pinball and arcade show. Sometimes it’s to reduce excess inventory and sometimes it’s a business. Either way it’s not all roses.

The cost to attend the event in driving and lodging takes a big bite out of any profits or attempts to recover costs for the hobby. For a business, it’s largely PR. Either way the service provided is something you can’t put an actual price on. The hours spent setting up and packing inventory can be excessive. Then you have to put back what you came back with. Hats off to all these folks.

  • Cliffy’s Protectors

Cliffy has been hammering out these protectors for several years now. His contribution to the hobby has evolved from a few sets a weekend to now a full-time passion. I have shared a booth with him for years at Pin-a-Go-Go. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cliffy (center)
Cliffy (center)
  • Nifty LED
The folks at Nifty supplied the lanyards for this year’s show
The folks at Nifty supplied the lanyards for this year’s show
Pin-a-Go-Go 2017 lanyards
Pin-a-Go-Go 2017 lanyards
  • Marco Specialties
Parts and swag from Marco
Parts and swag from Marco
  • Planetary Pinball Supply & Don Highley
Games and parts, old and new from Don
Games and parts, old and new from Don
  • Double Danger Pinball Accessories
Pinball apparel from Double Danger
Pinball apparel from Double Danger
  • Don Mueting and Rob Hawkins
Don and Rob getting some well-deserved media attention
Don and Rob getting some well-deserved media attention
  • Pacific Pinball Museum
Teaching the art, science and history of pinball at the PPM
Teaching the art, science and history of pinball at the PPM
  • Rob Anthony and Taro

I cannot imagine a show without Rob, also known as Boryguard. His “Lock When Lit” service is outstanding. Rob repairs boards on-site and has lots of test tools and parts on hand right at the show. Rob lugs around his WPC test fixture from show to show across the country. On top of that he is one great guy. Always glad to see you.

Rob tests another WPC board
Rob tests another WPC board
Taro!
Taro!
  • Classic Playfield Reproductions
Beautiful new playfields and plastics
Beautiful new playfields and plastics

Got a spare $30K burning a hole in your pocket?

A rare Magic Girl by Zidware
A rare Magic Girl by Zidware

The Steve Charland Memorial

About Steve Charland

Authors note:

For those who knew Steve you were blessed. If you didn’t get to know him then you missed a legend of pinball and one of the best people you could ever meet. He devoted himself to helping others repair a brand of game that most operators had shoved to the back of the warehouse and left for dead. He realized a need and filled it. We spent hours together at the shows going through my many bins of parts. We discussed the technology and I made sure he had all the inside information I had gathered at service schools over the years.

We collaborated on projects he wanted to pursue. Although I was used mostly for information and affirmation he did all the work. At times he amazed me at how deep he was willing to dig to get an answer for a problem. Although you may not know it there are quite a few mods out there that Steve pioneered. After we found a bag of Haunted House illuminated posts in one of my bins we started discussing why more post illumination had not been utilized on games. This grew into a project with several versions and ideas and a ton of phone calls. The final result was a small circuit board with a flat LED that fit under a playfield post and did not affect the height of the plastics mounted on it enough to cause a problem with pinballs getting trapped underneath. Routing the wiring through existing holes was easy. Steve put these on his Alien Star and took it to PAGG to show it off. Well, we all know what happened and someone else with the means to fabricate them jumped on it and took credit. Even though this bothered him he did not let it get the best of him. In the end, it was for the good of pinball.

Steve posted so much free advice and help via RGP and Pinside to so many who may not have gotten those games ever running again. One of the things Steve often joked with me about was that he hoped he would never be forgotten. I think we can say that will never be an issue.

The Steve Charland memorial
The Steve Charland memorial

Special thanks to Brad Czernik of Naperville, IL who made it possible for all of us to obtain a special poster in Steve’s Memory. The poster was available in two sizes.

The Steve Charland poster

Many thanks to…

The backbone:

For six years Pin-a-Go-Go had been presented by the Northern California Pinball Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization who have donated the proceeds from the event to local youth charities such as the Dixon Teen Center, 4H and the Boys and Girls Club of Vacaville.

The members are:

Greg Ong
Steve Faith
Eric Neff and family
Chris Bannister and family
Seth Holder
Brad Grant

Super volunteers:

Kevin Johnson and Jamie Myers from Dixon Teen Center
Spencer Clingan and Steve Frisvold

Transportation:

All the guys who drove trucks including Adam Presler, Wally Pearce, Larry Zartarian, and Steven Griffin

Raffle/Auction:

Mary Pearce and Chris Bannister

Over the top: Lots of hours worked by:

David Volansky
Henry and Michelle Nanjo
Ron and Luci Chan

Floor game repair:

Chris Kuntz puts in a lot of time fixing games.

Our special guests were:

‘Dirty’ Donny Gilles, artist for Metallica and Aerosmith
Jack Guarneri and Butch Peel from Jersey Jack Pinball
Jolly Backer from American Pinball

Tom Collins and Michael Hosier did the tournament that benefitted the Pacific Pinball Museum

There is so much more that can be said and pictures that could be posted, but everything cannot be described in one article. Also it’s hard to recognize everyone who contributes and for that my sincere apologies, but one thing for sure is the picture below makes it all worthwhile.

The $20,000 donation to the Dixon Teen Center
The $20,000 donation to the Dixon Teen Center
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4 Comments

  1. Matt Christiano

    September 14, 2017 at 7:57 am

    The 22nd annual Pin-a-go-go will be held again next year at the same venue in Dixon, CA.

    2018 show dates are Oct 12-14, 2018.

    http://pin-a-go-go.org

    Reply

  2. Steve Ritchie

    September 14, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Great article, Mario. I wish I could have been there, but I was chest-deep in Star Wars. I regret not being there for the Steve Charland memorial both at Fix-a-thon, and PAGG. He was a great guy, a good friend, and a pinhead’s pinhead. Like you, he could fix anything!

    Reply

  3. Spencer C. Clingan

    September 21, 2017 at 3:29 am

    The Golden State Pinball Festival Will be held in Lodi California the weekend after mothers day.
    May 19,20, and 21. put on by the same great people that organized the Dixon show these last 7 years. Lodi or bust.

    Reply

  4. Ben

    September 30, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks for another fantastic review of an amazing show!

    Reply

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