Hello from Lodi in the wine region of Northern California.
In a change from the usual show report format we present this report as a personal journal by the Editor of Pinball News, Martin Ayub, who was invited to the show to report on it, record the seminars and host one of the Pinball University sessions – a fireside chat with Jersey Jack Pinball’s Jack Guarnieri. If you’d rather just get to the show details, click here to skip the background information.
So, over to…err…me.
My journey to Lodi had begun some six thousand miles and five months away. I was contacted by the team running the annual Pin-A-Go-Go (PAGG) show, the Northern California Pinball Association (NCPA), who told me that for 2018 they wanted to expand PAGG, but to do that meant moving away from their traditional home of Dixon so they could have a large, better-equipped facility where they could have more machines and an expanded educational programme. It also meant moving the dates from early May to mid-May.
Now, on a purely selfish level that was great news for me. Dixon is not the easiest place to get to for anyone flying into the country from Europe, and the timing has always been a problem for me as it clashes with a recurring work commitment which always happens on the first Thursday in May.
So, when the NCPA asked if I would like to come to the newly-renamed Golden State Pinball Festival (GSPF) in Lodi I jumped at the chance, booked flights and car hire and arranged the time off work.
Getting to Lodi (pronounced “Load-Eye”), which is just south of Sacramento for those who know California (and for those who don’t too), could have involved flying in to San Francisco and driving, but for a change I thought I’d fly to Oakland instead as that gets me out of SF without having to battle all the downtown rush hour traffic. However, flying to Oakland “International” Airport wasn’t as easy or a timely as expected, and I ended up taking Virgin Atlantic and then Delta via LA. Fortunately, I got a row of seats to myself on the Virgin flight, which allowed me to start work on this report while still on the 787 Dreamliner.
After collecting my luggage and the rental car at Oakland, the drive up to Lodi took around ninety minutes. In fact, I was staying at the Comfort Inn & Suites in the nearby city of Galt rather than in Lodi itself. It’s about a fifteen-minute car journey to Lodi from Galt so no big deal, although at 1:30am and after being awake for 27 hours, driving those extra minutes seemed to take an eternity.
Set-up for the show began on Thursday morning, so after a pretty decent hotel breakfast I hopped into the car and drove down to Lodi Grape Festival & Harvest Fair Fairgrounds so I could get some pictures of the progress so far and check out the Pin-U facilities for my recordings.
There were already GSPF banners and signs outside the venue with more going up as I arrived.
The facility used by the show is made up of three connected halls and a separate building which would be used for the Pinball University talks. Being in the California wine region, the three halls are all named after grape varieties – Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet. Yeah, I know, but I guess you have to call them something.
All three halls were pretty empty when I arrived, but pinballs were being unloaded from trucks at the front and vendor stands brought in from the back, so they all soon started to fill up.
As you can see, there’s plenty of space at the new venue and there’s another big advantage of the new home over the previous one in Dixon, and that can be seen (and felt) by looking up.
The air-con was certainly needed during set-up with the temperature outside climbing to 28°C (82°F) in the bright sunshine. Similar conditions are forecast for the weekend too.
The Cabernet Hall is expecting to receive 127 pinballs, the Zinfandel Hall 141 pins, and the Chardonnay Hall another 58, making a planned total of 226 machines. We’re gonna need a bigger notebook!
Before heading over to the Pinball University hall, I had a look at the games already here.
There were plenty of electronic games arriving too.
One of the ways GSPF is unlike other shows is the laid-back atmosphere, and that extends to the competitive side of pinball too. There is a tournament, but it’s a pin-golf style with the emphasis on making it fun for everyone. The games were yet to arrive in the Zinfandel Hall, but the space for them was allocated at the front of the room.
At the back of the same hall was the Pin Medics zone, where the show’s technical helpers are located and where any dead games come for speedy resurrection.
While there is a large vendor display in the Chardonnay Hall, you can buy parts, games, accessories and learn about gaming-related work across all three buildings.
When the show opens at 1pm on Friday, visitors will enter the venue through the front gates.
They then have a choice of destinations. The show halls are on the left, starting with the Chardonnay Hall.
Directly in front of the main gates is a seating area where people can sit and enjoy the predicted fine weather, as well as enjoy the food and drinks on sale inside.
Then, on the right we have the Jackson Hall building which is where the Pinball University talks will take place.
The Pinball University (Pin-U) comprises twelve talks – four per day – in a dedicated hall with plenty of seating and a decent audio-video set-up to match. The chairs and stage were in position when I arrived, but the screen and sound system was delivered later.
The system uses a large back-projection screen which the AV company built and erected at the back of the stage.
When they were finished, the room was transformed.
I’ll be spending a large portion of my show hours in Pin-U, making sure the recordings all work and helping the team of volunteers with the various microphones, audio mixer, video switcher and all the other audio/video connections. I’ll also be on the stage to moderate the Jersey Jack Pinball fireside chat later on Saturday afternoon which should be a fun event.
So that’s my journey to the Golden State Pinball festival so far. It’s going to be an action-packed few days ahead and I’ll do my level best to keep you updated on everything that happens in my subsequent reports. Links to those will appear back on the main Pinball News GSPF page as soon as they are ready.