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On September 17th, 2003 - I flew to Las Vegas to meet Tim Arnold and help / play during his Family Fun Nights.

Let me give a little history on the event and it's purpose. Tim owns one of the largest collection of pinball machines in the world. I don't know what the number is, but I'd guess it's over 1000. He restores machines regularly and has been fortunate and skillfull enough to acquire many machines that are the only examples or nearly the only examples of this piece of Americana. Once or twice the year, Tim holds what he calls Family Fun Nights. He has a large selection of his games turned on and ready to play in free play mode. Anyone who wants to show up is welcome to play. There is no charge on fun nights. Tim and the Las Vegas Pinball Club run a huge raffle. In the past, the money from the raffle went to the Las Vegas Salvation Army. But Tim and I discussed it via e-mail and I suggested that he allow people to pick where the money would go, either to the Salvation Army or the Pinball Club's non-profit organization. You might be asking, "Why would anyone want to generate large amounts of money for a pinabll club"? Well, it's actually in pursuit of a building that would be open all year that would house the collection and allow people to play whenever they wanted. The building would generate more income for the Salvation Army after it got itself running. The details are here: http://www.pinballmuseum.org.

Anyway, I had to work on Wednesday, but I got a 7:00pm flight out of Atlanta that arrived at 8:22pm (pacific). By the time I got my car (Alamo - cheap rates - long lines) and found my way to my hotel (Boulder Station - very nice and reasonably priced) and then to Tim's house, it was 10:00pm. This is the exact time when Tim turns off all of the games, calls his "General Meeting", and discusses what the raffle was for and who won what! I was too late to buy any tickets, but I got some mediocre video of Tim talking (it was actually pretty windy and the wind took out some of my audio). Lots of prizes were given out and everyone was happy! The games came back on and I went inside and was dumbfounded by the HUGE quantity of games that I was faced with. I mean, you have to understand that there are 100s of pinball machines turned on, in rows so long that you can't see the names of games 1/4 way down the row let alone to the end. I introduced myself to Tim and he was pretty frazzled by this part of the evening. At the end of the night, a little after 12:00am Tim threw the switches and everything came down. Because of the trip, I was a little hungry, and I overheard Tim say that he was and some other out of towners were going out to Denny's for a bite. I asked if I could tag along. We had some fun conversation about Pinball Industry people and such and it was neat to hear about things from the perspective of others really into the scene. I got back to my hotel room by 3:00am (6:00am for you east coasters) and finally got some sleep.

On Thursday, I was suppose to call Tim at 12:00pm to hang out, so I did but Tim and Charlotte (Tim's Wife) had a personal emergency to attend to so I couldn't get together with them. I went down and ate at the buffet and gambled in the casino (won $50). At Charlotte's suggestion, I went to a movie (some dumb film by that guy who plays Kelso on "That 70's Show") as there was a movie theatre in the hotel. Tim left a message on my cell phone and I went to Tim's around 9:00pm and met Jim Schelberg who is the editor of The Pingame Journal. I also met Jim Rogers, formerly known as Jimmy the Cab Driver and now "Swingin Jim the Bartender". Jim bought one of the 4 games that Tim had donated to the building fund for sale and 100% profit. We played some games and discussed stuff, these guys are REALLY into pinball. Back to the hotel room by 12:00pm, Jim had packed his game and left and everyone was tired.

Friday's Fun Night officially started at 6:00pm, but Tim told people who were going to help to get there at 3:00pm. I was there at 3:00 and made an Ice run. I did a few little things during the day, but nothing difficult. Tim really let me have fun. I took over 200 pictures on the digital camera and over 55 minutes of video. How many games did I play the whole time? - hmmm less than 50 I'd say. I did gain an appreciation for the really old games, they were absolutely amazing considering how they score and keep track of bonuses and more without the use of computer chips. The art and playfield designs were awesome and just kept getting better. I really got a little better at playing as well. And did I leave any initalis on one of the games. Unfortunatly, it wasn't a pinball machine, Tim also had a bunch of video games set up and I had a high score of 1.3 million on Star Wars. Someone topped me, but it was still on there when the power went off.

During Tim's general meeting, I was included as an Honorary Staff Member from Georgia! That was cool. People really treated me well the whole time I was there. Pinball people are really great. In the raffle I won a bottle of "Flamin Balls Pinball Hot Sauce" that was donated by Steve Young's Pinball Resource. I'd also like to mention that lots of pinball retailers donated lots of stuff to make this happen. Marco sent Ring Kits, Pingame Journal gave free subscriptions, someone donated 4 foot tall "Spongebob Squarepants" dolls. It was all really cool.

The last picture I got of the totals raised was $8232.00 for the Salvation Army and $6535.00 for the building fund. That's $14,767.00 raised total. This is a seriously good thing they are doing here!

The trip was great, the people were great, it was a great cause. Tim's not promising to do another, but if he does, it'll be the beginning of March, 2004. If anyone wants to really experience pinball, this is the way to do it.


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Thanks for reading everyone.

2003 Al Warner