Pinfest – how one mad idea came to fruition

December 2011.

After months of work, Chris and Dom Slevin opened their dream business, Pizza n Pinball, in Broadmeadow. (A Newcastle suburb, 2 hours north of Sydney)  The brothers combining their skills in takeaway food, pinball maintenance and of course their love of the silverball. The word was put out via arcade forums, a Facebook page was set up, and the customers started to walk in.

One of those initial customers… was Robert Denton.

Interior, Pizza n Pinball January 2012

Rob’s a keen pinball player – competed at a few competitions – and mates with a few of the local Novocastrian pinball fans. He’s also well-known as the President of the Cardiff Northlakes Chamber of Commerce, and a prominent anti-graffiti campaigner. Soon after Rob visited Pizza n Pinball, he had dinner with his mate, Bill. Talk turned to the subject of pinball and Rob suggested Bill could hold a pinball expo at ‘his place’. And no, I don’t mean his house.

Bill Saddington is a well-known businessman in the Newcastle area. His surname adorns a huge hardware supply business (and its fifty distinctive blue vehicles are a constant presence on local roads). He’s also one of the owners of a large entertainment venue south of Newcastle; the Caves Beachside Hotel. It’s only a few years old, and as potential locations go for a pinball expo, it is world class… if not world-beating. Luckily for local pinball fans – Bill’s answer was “yes”.  But it would take time and a lot of organisation.

June 2012

Pizza n Pinball had been trading for over 18 months; Dom and Chris had built up quite a few ‘regulars’, started to grow the ‘function’ side of the business and held some big pinball events. But they were blisfully unaware of a fateful dinner that happenned so long ago…  in the first weeks of their opening. That was about to change.

Bill Saddington still wanted to get that ‘pinball expo’ idea up and running at last. So he contacted AMD (an Aussie distributor of latest-release pinball machines) in the hope of getting some help to make the event a reality. They gave him a name and a number, for someone who could help. Chris Slevin.

Ring, ring….   ring, ring…..

Now, before Chris answers that phone, I’d better point something out for our non-pinball-expo-experienced readers. Pinball events are often held in ‘average’ venues; somewhere affordable, maybe a little bit tired, but a place that does the job. Caves Beachside Hotel doesn’t meet any of those descriptions. Have a look at the photo below.

Exterior, Caves Beachside Hotel

Ring, ring….   ring, ring…..

Chris Slevin remembers the call quite well. “It was mid July. Bill called and asked if I’d like to hold a pinball expo at his place. I instantly agreed, as you would. Then – he said it was in 8 weeks time!” Eight! Chris got to work. He and brother Dom advertised a volunteers meeting via the Aussie Arcade forum, and ten people showed up. The Newcastle Pinball Association was formed and the team set to work on gathering machines, organising promotions and so on.

The Slevin boys have been to a number of pinball events before – good and bad – and tried to use that experience to their advantage. “The biggest lesson was to have machines that WORK.” suggests Chris. Variety is also the key. “A mix of different era machines makes for the best lineup – so people play eras they normally don’t have access to.

Some of the games to be featured at Pinfest

As the weeks rolled by, more and more pieces of the Pinfest puzzle slid into place. The number of pledged pinball machines hit 50, including a recent AC/DC model that will be playable as part of the national AC/DC competition. Chris thinks the lineup will be a real crowd-pleaser. “To have the latest machine X-men machine will be good, to give people the chance to see and play it. But I love that there will be something from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s to now for the public to play because it gives the whole family something they remember.

The inaugaural Pinfest Caves Beach will include commercial stands (pinball books, parts, etc) and on Saturday night from 6.30, there’ll be an open tournament which is also on the IFPA calender.  This afternoon, as this post goes live, the last of the 50 machines will be moved into place – ready for the crowds tomorrow.

More games to be featured at Pinfest

So what’s Chris Slevin’s message for visitors who might not have played pinball in a while….?  “Come along and relive a misspent youth! (laughs)  This is a chance to see and play a range of pinball machine from all eras and you will fall back in love with the silverball.

Pinfest will run 10-5 tomorrow and 10-4 Sunday at Caves Beachside Hotel.  2 hours north of Sydney.

3 Responses to Pinfest – how one mad idea came to fruition

  1. great work Gabe, ciya at Pinfest

  2. Bernadette ford says:

    Well done. Pinfest was a great success. Great machines, venue and event staff.

  3. Lesley says:

    Fabulous event gents! Well done in pulling off such a brilliant event where the younger generation could enjoy a fun past time while also raising funds for SIDS.

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