Fun for Young and Old


Dennis Evanosky

A father plays on the machine next to his daughter as she bats the silver ball around during last weekend’s Pacific Pinball Exposition.

Alameda-based pinball museum holds annual fundraiser

Some 3,000 pinball aficionados from across the country and other parts of the world converged on the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael last weekend for the sixth annual Pacific Pinball Exposition (PPE).

The event — with its half acre of some 400 machines set on "free play",— benefitted Alameda's own Pacific Pinball Museum (PPM).

The museum holds the exposition, also described as the world's largest pinball show, as its annual fundraiser, this year with the express goal of relocating the museum to a larger, more permanent home, without completely scrapping operations in Alameda. If the PPM board has its way, they will move to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco just after the Exploratorium moves out in 2013.

In fact, word going around is that this year's show was the last PPE, as the museum will host an ongoing version of the expo year round in its newly secured facility.

"We're not planning another PPE at this venue," said PPM board chairman Larry Zartarian. "Our focus will be to secure a permanent location for our collection so that our next expo can celebrate the opening of that location."

In the meantime, the expo created a waking dreamland where people can easily believe in the future of pinball as a competitve sport, as an art form and as a viable economic investment.

Industry leaders Gary Stern and "Jersey Jack" Guarnieri spoke; various seminars were held on improving play, customizing games, repairing machines and much more.

Jersey Jack brought the much anticipated Wizard of Oz machine with its spinning house and ruby slipper flippers to the show. Lines upwards of 20 people waited to play the game, still in its beta-testing stage. Jersey Jack's company is the first new pinball company to enter the marketplace in nearly a decade.

Five tournaments were held over the three-day event, two of which allowed brand-new competitors to have their results included among the 15,000 or so players ranked worldwide by the International Flipper Pinball Association. In the main tournament, players duked it out in a field of 83 competitors to a final match between Seattle's Jeff Gagnon and the Bay Area's own Andrei Massenkoff. A kid's tournament was held, along with a parentchild split-flipper tournament.

No less than 22 hand-painted giant (approx. 10'x10') reproductions of pinball art hung throughout the room, providing a testimony to the creativity that went into each and every pinball machine. Works by Alameda artists Ed Cassel, d'Arci Bruno and Eric J. Kos as well as San Rafael-based Dan Fontes were on display.

"Our museum celebrates the art, history and science of pinball," said PPM board member Brad Grant. "We feel these murals help preserve this rarely celebrated art form for future generations." For Alameda resident and PPM board member Jim Strehlow, putting on the exposition is a passion, not just for him, but for the hordes of volunteers who help out.

"Over 200 people turn out to help us load and unload our trucks full of machines," Strehlow said. "On some days, it's hard to get a hold of a handtruck, there's so many people working."

PPM's Executive Director Michael Schiess uses the PPE as a forum to recognize the efforts of the PPM volunteers and other pinball innovators. Each year Schiess and the PPM board awards certificates for best in show, best original condition, best modified pinball game, and more. Schiess also took a moment to thank people who work to promote pinball.

Tournament organizers Jon Olkowski and Jeannie Rodriguez along with Alameda Sun publisher Kos got special recognition during the show.

"Doing this show is a lot of work," said Schiess. "But the energy behind keeping pinball alive cannot be contained."

For more information on the PPM visit


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