This year, I will be attending the Allentown Pinball Festival, affectionately known to Northeasterners as PINFEST, which will be held on May 2-3, 2014 at the Allentown Fairgrounds in, you guessed it, Allentown, PA.
This will be my second year in a row attending. Last year it was part of a larger family road-trip with my wife and toddler, and I attended for the Saturday only. My wife dropped me off at the front doors when they opened, and I didn’t see her or the kid again until late afternoon when the doors closed and the unsold machines were being hauled out of the free play area. I think she went shoe shopping. Who cares. I was in glorious heaven for those few hours. A couple hundred games, tons of vendors, plenty of people with a common interest all packed into a musty display hall. I bypassed the latest offerings from Stern, the Wizard of Oz early production prototype and an Addams Family and went straight to the games that I went there to play. Glorious B-, C-, and D-list games that I had never played before! Skateball! Swords of Fury! Bone Busters! Fire! Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Ball! Three OTHER copies of Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Ball! (Seriously) Some I wanted to own! Others I never, ever wanted to play again! But I loved every minute of it. Pinball shows like this don’t exist where I’m from. Hell, location games don’t exist where I’m from, either. The pinhead friends I have only have high value titles and the newest releases that I’m “forced” to play when I visit their places. If nothing else, Pinfest gave me an appreciation for the games residing in the lower quarter of the Pinside rankings.
(As an aside, I realize that my unbridled enthusiasm for such games is based on the fact that I got to play them a handful of times before walking away from them…it would be a very different story if I were forced to buy a Bugs Bunny machine to put in my own collection…if that were the case, I would be less ecstatic than that previous paragraph would lead you to believe.)
This year, it all changes. I have exchanged the wife and child in favour of real life pinball enthusiasts! Sure, it was fun exploring the bustling metropolis of greater Allentown with my wife, but this will be a different kid of fun. Beer drinking (probably to excess), pinball playing in the hotel rooms, cigar smoking, cursing, and shooting the breeze about missed pinball opportunities and future plans.
I would love for the Allentown show to have speakers or notable attendees (pin designers, artists, etc.) like the Chicago Expo or the Texas Pinball Festival. The closest thing Pinfest gets is Todd Tuckey from TNT Amusements. But I have a feeling that “celebrity” guests would take away from the grassroots feel of the show. There is a definite focus on playing and exchanging pinball machines at this show. Its just a bunch of guys and girls getting together in a working class town to play some big time pinball. Pinfest’s charm is in the unpretentious “olde tyme” county fair feel it captures, complete with farmers market across the road and parking lot swap meet out back. (Speaking of the farmer’s market, I will be eating multiple buffalo chicken pretzel wraps served by genuine Amish girls at the market. Pinfest or not, if you happen to be in Allentown, and the fairgrounds market is open, you must stop and consume mass quantities of these pretzel wraps.)
I am not set on bringing a game home, or buying for the sake of buying. However, I feel the itch…there is going to be a Williams/Bally System 11 game with my name on it. I have front runners and hopes of what I’d like it to be, but I have nothing arranged or written in stone. I already have the majority of my grail games (ie. the EXPENSIVE ones, TAF, CFTBL, etc.) in my collection already…its time to add a title (or two) that is under appreciated and overlooked. What better place to do it than at the Allentown Pinfest…where working-class C-list games are king and four copies of Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Ball on the free play floor is the norm!