THE FLIPPERS WERE flying, lights were flashing and bells were ringing this past weekend when the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds hosted the fourth annual Golden State Pinball Festival.

Started in 2012 in Dixon, California, the show kicked off with the inception of the Northern California Pinball Association under the name “Pin-a-Go-Go” and has been held every year during the weekend after Mother’s Day. The event then moved to Lodi in 2018 under its new and current name.

According to Steve Frisvold, of the Northern California Pinball Association, the event holds over 300 collector-curated pinball machines from all over California. “We have really old machines from the, you know, the ’50s, the ’60s, the old electromechanical machines, all the way up to the brand-new electronic ones,” Frisvold said.

The collectors who brought in machines included Alameda’s Pacific Pinball Museum, Monterey Flipper Pinball at Lynn’s Arcade, Pinball Pirate and more.

“All of the machines are free once you pay for admission,” Frisvold said. All the proceeds were designated for the World of Wonders Museum in Lodi and the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, he said.

Frisvold added that during the weekend-long event, some pinball enthusiasts camped at the festival grounds and brought pinball machines along with them.

Ryan Brown helps his son Logan Brown, 2, play pinball during the Golden State Pinball Festival at Lodi Grape Festival Grounds on May 19, 2023. Ryan said he visits the show every year and brought along his 1980s “Space Station” machine. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Ryan Brown was one such pinhead, who drove down from Roseville with his wife, a two-year old son and a 1980s model “Space Station” Pinball machine for the weekend. “I have come out here every single year since they have held it here in Lodi, so this is perhaps my fourth year at the show,” Brown said. “Today is the first time my son is at the show.”

The event also included other 20th century models such as the 1992 Alvin G. Soccer Ball, which is a head-to-head game and one of only 500 models of its kind. Adrian DeGroot, the collector of the machine, also brought in another head-to-head game machine called “Joust,” which he built on his own.

Many of them still teenagers at heart who once haunted the halls of gaming arcades, “pinheads” indulge in some nostalgia during the Golden State Pinball Festival at Lodi Grape Festival Grounds on May 19, 2023. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

“I got all the parts and put it together and built my own cabinet and programmed it myself.” DeGroot said. “It’s working right now, and hopefully, it’ll work throughout the weekend.”

The three-day event concluded Sunday, but organizers have already started the countdown on the website to next year’s festival.

Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.