Golden Gate Pinball Festival Comes to Lodi

By Eileen Weber

Flashing lights and whizzing sounds, exhibits, lectures, food and adult beverages, a silent auction, and even a space to camp out.

If that sounds like fun to you, then the Golden Gate Pinball Festival is the place to be. The event will take place on the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds from May 18th to 20th.

For years, the event took place in Dixon. But with an ever-increasing popularity, the Northern California Pinball Association (NCPA) needed a bigger place to host it. Nestled between two freeways making it easily accessible, Lodi was the perfect spot.

“The show has been growing year after year,” says Chris Bannister, a NCPA board member heavily involved in organizing the event. “We actually had to turn people away with pinball machines last year. We had 284 machines but could easily have had way over 300.”

Chris says the show is a very family-oriented “affair” and a great way for parents and kids to connect. Everything is digital these days—phones, tablets, laptops—but pinball is a social thing.

“Playing pinball is real and tactile,” he says. “Your senses are completely engaged.”

Pinball has been one of the hottest arcade games for decades. At one time, it was banned in most major cities including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. From the 1940s to the early 1970s, pinball machines were considered gambling devices with ties to the mafia that wreaked havoc on youth morality. Today, pinball is less criminal and more nostalgic.  

This is the seventh event hosted by the NCPA, a nonprofit organization. Every year they give all of their net proceeds to a specific charity. Previously, they have raised over $100,000 for the Dixon Teen Center as well as benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Vacaville and the 4-H Club. This year’s recipient will be Lodi’s World of Wonders Science Museum. A hands-on facility, they focus on getting kids of all ages excited about science.

Chris points out that pinball and science go hand in hand. The game involves everything from electronics and mechanics to art, woodworking, and metallurgy. Sally Snyde, the museum’s president, heartily agreed. “There’s a huge correlation between pinball and science,” she says. “What’s going on inside is not just hitting the balls.”

The museum has two pinball machines and is currently building a pinball exhibit. As part of a group effort at the festival, they will also have a vendor space, provide all the food, and help with promotion and advertising.

With the price of admission, you can play hundreds of games for free! A three-day pass is $50 for adults, kids 13 and under $25. Prices vary for individual days. Active military with ID are half price, and parking is free.

For more Information:
Event Location: Lodi Grape Festival Grounds, 413 E. Lockeford St., Lodi


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