Over the weekend in Banning California was the third event at the Museum of Pinball and this was the biggest event to date. While there are still some growing pains for the show this years event continued to build upon the previous shows.
One thing that was very clear was that there had been a great effort in getting as many pinball and arcade games up and running for the show. A few weeks before the show I helped get some of the pinball machines ready for the show. With the sheer size of the facility and the amount of equipment is simply astounding. For the most part I would say that about 80 to 85% were up and running during the show. There was a good amount of techs available Saturday on the floor to help get problems taken care of problems with the machines. There was also volunteers that were available to put credits on the machines that were unable to be set to free play.
Saturday was the busiest day of the show and seemed to be the largest turnout over the previous shows. The pinball side got very crowded early on and stayed very busy until the late afternoon/early evening. The video game side was very busy also and with a higher number of games available helped ease the wait times and crowds greatly.
The layout of the pinball side was nearly the same as the previous show with some new machines on the floor. One of the biggest surprises was Williams Rat Race that there were only 10 ever made and was playable during the show and I will talk about that machine in a separate story. There was also the newest Stern pinball Ghostbusters and Batman ’66 that were very popular.
One of the biggest addition to the facility was the patio area that was added that was just finished before the show so going forward they will have a larger area for the food and outdoor seating area. Marco Specialties Pinball was back in the outside tent with the newest Stern machines including the Areosmith pinball that was just released days before the show. They had two of them to play and I don’t think there was a moment during the show that they were not being played.
One thing that had plagued the first two shows was the lack of food at the location that was thankfully remedied this time. There were hamburgers, fries and other fast food items along with craft beers and ice cream. While I myself did not have any of the food because we alway go into town to eat and take a little break from the show, I understand that the food was pretty goof but they unfortunately was not able to handle the capacity of the show and there were reports that it was taking 30 to 45 to get your food. The area was just not big enough to handle the volume when it go busy. They definitely need to have a larger area for the next show and some more terminals to handle orders. Just trying to get a soda on Saturday took about 10 minutes that should not have taken that long.
There were some ongoing issues with the show that have been slow to be addressed. The bathrooms are still a major issue. Simply put there is not enough to handle the amount of people at the show and they were not being taken care of very well during the show. While some would question bringing in portable restrooms, it really would have help out quite a bit. They also need to have the bathrooms staffed during the show to clean and make sure that they are supplied when needed. This issue is a big problem at the show and need to be seriously addressed before the next show. While the parking was a little more organized they need to mark the parking spots but have the other lots much more organized than the main one. When we got there Saturday morning they had people directing you into a parking spot but after the first few hours it turned into a free for all with very little direction on where to park.
This years show had a greater number of staff on the floor that was a good thing but on Sunday there was noticeably less staff and they were much harder to find on the floor. The pinball side staff was pretty on top of it but, on the Video Game side on Saturday the staff tended to be walking around in packs and not really covering the floor well overall. I understand that a lot of the volunteers are younger kid from the local community that was great to see but there really needed to be more leadership in overseeing them.
The one thing that the facility is challenged with is the heat. Let’s face it Banning is in the desert and it gets damn hot there. One of the reasons that the show is in the early part of the year is that it’s cooler than the summer. While the facility has air conditioning, once you start turning all of the games on then add hundreds of people the place is going to get hot really quickly. The one thing that you need to start going is circulate the air that an air conditioner doesn’t do very well. They need to maybe put in some ceiling fans or get the large fans to move the air around. Another thing that might have helped was at night running the air conditioning full blast to try to help get ahead of the heat for the next day. Past shows have been cooler days and it still gets really hot in there. This year the temperature was about 10 plus degrees higher than the previous two shows.
I don’t want to sound too negative about the show because overall there was much more right than wrong with the show and this years show was overall a huge improvement and great steps in the right direction. But there are issues that are not being addressed that can make the shows even better. I do want to thank John Weeks for not only sharing his love of pinball and video game with the public and that this facility and show is a huge undertaking and him and the staff pulled off a great show. The staff is made up of mostly volunteers and they really do a great job of putting this show on. While there are some issues that still need to be ironed out and I’m sure that they are working hard to get thing even better for the next show.
In the end everyone had a great time and it was great to see lots of kids, women and families at the show. It’s great to see new generations discover pinball and arcade video games a share the love that I myself have for classic arcades from the past. The show keeps growing and is on the right track to be the premiere pinball and arcade video game facility in the world.
Below are some of the pictures during the show. I will have more coverage on the show soon so check back to see more.