JagFest 2K2: Atari & Beyond
This year JagFest was held in the legendary city of St. Louis, home of the Gateway Arch, the 2001 Superbowl Champion Rams, the Blues hockey team, and of course, the storied St. Louis Cardinal baseball team. (Hint: Move your mouse over each photo for the caption.)
My wife, Marianne, and I decided to fly out to St. Louis on Thursday morning so we could get there and start setting up. I received a surprise on the plane when we arrived which made all the passengers look at me with wonder: JT August left me a note to call him to be picked up! We expected to take the MetroLink to the hotel, but a pickup would save us a lot of headaches!
Almost as soon as we settled in, Patrick Forhan arrived with a box of Songbird stuff to sell. Marianne offered to help and she set up the Songbird display while I kept myself busy setting up my Atari SC1435 monitor with the Jaguar. I had packed the monitor in a Gateway 2000 box and checked it as baggage. I was relieved to discover that it had arrived in perfect condition.
JT August was in and out constantly going to his house to pick up his game systems as well as the many monitors and TVs we needed to hook up to the game consoles. On one of his trips he appeared with Dan Iacovelli after picking him up from the train station. We all began setting up the TVs and monitors while JT ran out to get more stuff. We also began hauling stuff upstairs for the museum.
Marianne and I were getting hungry and JT had said we would meet up for dinner. When he hadn't arrived by 9pm, we decided to head out to the designated restaurant. I called Dan and we took the MetroLink to the Spaghetti Factory. JT arrived just as our salads arrived! Perfect timing!
When we got back, James Garvin and Tim Wilson had yet to arrive. They did finally make it sometime after 11pm so we began setting up their stuff. After all was said and done, we didn't get to bed until past 3am!
Day One - The Mayhem Begins
I meant to get up at 8am, but I had forgotten to change my alarm clock to St. Louis time and ended up getting up 7am! I was ready to go, however. I called JT to make sure he was up and then proceeded downstairs to continue working. We needed more tables, so I spent the good part of the morning figuring out where to include them.
It was 9 o'clock when James and Tim arrived. JT was running late and we learned he wouldn't be able to make it until after 11am! That was unfortunate because he was bringing some critical equipment to hook up some of the game consoles. We would have to make do.
It seemed to me that the dealers both arrived at the same time: Trade 'n' Games and Slackers had HUGE displays of stuff, but managed to get it all ready before the 10am opening time. We were glad they were there. Trade 'n' Games brought a homemade Dance Dance Revolution floor and everyone enjoyed either playing with it or watching others play it.
The night before, JT had also brought a whole boxload of NES and Genesis games that we GAVE AWAY FOR FREE! James Garvin and I rummaged through them and found a few copies of Virtua Racing for the Genesis. There were a few left afterwards, but we just had to have a copy of that $99 game that had been marked down to $.99 !
10am is when people started to show up. I asked Marianne if she wouldn't mind being the pretty face people saw when they first walked in and cover the entry table. She obliged and that was her main job for both days! I was very pleased by that. Each guest got a free copy of the program and were directed to the box of free games and the museum upstairs. The three Japanese guys from last years show were excited to be back and we were we glad to have them back!
Along with his stuff, Carl Forhan had sent two copies of Phase Zero so we showed that off to great gasps from our trio from the land of the rising sun. The graphics were very "good" they said and were clearly interested in purchasing it, much to my delight.
Shortly after we sent some people upstairs to look at the museum stuff, I realized that much of it still needed to be unboxed! So I rushed upstairs and began setting it all up hoping that it was in a manner JT was wanting. Some of the highlights of the museum were several 2600s, several 7800s, a 5200, an XEGS, some strange looking detached Atari 8-bit keyboard with a parallel port on it, a Vectrex in perfect condition, an Odyssey I complete and with the gun, the Xenox II... and so many more I can't even remember!
When JT arrived things really got going as we had even more stuff to setup and play with. We decided to put a PS2 and a Dreamcast together for a side-by-side comparison. I must say that the Dreamcast did very well and everyone was excited about the homebrew demos and emulators that I had brought for it.
James Garvin conducted his gaming seminar to a surprising turnout. He would conduct another seminar on Day 2. James also showed his work on Native which included some great new tunes. Meanwhile, Tim Wilson and I duked it out in a game of networked Lynx Rampart. I won every game, naturally. ;-)
Patrick Clark of WB 11 news arrived in the morning to check things out. I spent a good amount of time showing him around and giving him an interview. Wow, I was going to be on TV yet again! I told him about Atari's trials and tribulations, why people love the classic games, how many 2600's were sold and what their value is (not much), and the purpose of JagFest. I also made sure he talked with the Japanese die-hards because I knew that would make a great story. (What's the Japanese word for "nerd?" he asked.) Patrick tried his hand at some Jaguar games, but he was especially happy to play the classic Atari 2600 version of Frogger. The story was aired that night at 9pm and it turned out great! (Hopefully we'll have a link to download it soon.)
Day Two - Getting Revved Up Again!
Greg Goodwin (aka Dr. Clu) arrived on Day 2 to help keep weary Jaguarians energized. He brought many of his Jaguar games that we had yet to see such as Space War 2000 and BattleSphere Gold. He also brought his two Catboxes and went out of his way to get a BattleSphere network going. I only wish I had a stress-free moment to give it a try! His curiosity led us to try the Songbird copy of the Native Demo provided with Protector SE. We wanted to see if that demo would work with BattleSphere Gold's bypass system and to our surprise, it worked great!
JT brought several of his Pong systems and I was excited to see how many people were interested in playing it. It's amazing how much fun you can have whipping your friends at that simple game. Greg Goodwin ended up winning the Pong tournament and won an awesome 4-player Pong system!
The tournaments really got going on this day. First up was The Atari Times' Brutal Sports Football tournament. Eight players vied for a free copy of The Atari Times 2001 Year End Issue as well as a game of their choice from the prize pile. The second place winner also received a game of their choice from the prize pile. Tim Wilson ended up in second place after dominating in the other two rounds. He chose a copy of Joust generously donated by Songbird. The winner got the 2001 Issue and chose a copy of Zelda for the CD-i donated by Good Deal Games.
The other tournaments consisted of Soul Calibur for which I got beat pretty early. I almost made it to the finals of the SNK Fighters Medley playing Samurai Showdown. If I had played THAT game all the way through, I might have made it to the finals, but the host kept changing the game which I didn't understand... Ah well. The winner of Soul Calibur won Space Ace and Dragon's Lair provided by Songbird and the SNK winner got the Nuon DVD player from the generous Japanese guests! Wow! (Actually, one of them WON the SNK tournament so they gave the Nuon to the 2nd place contestant.)
Our Japanese guests were unable to take their Xenon II and Nuon back with them which is why they donated them to the show. I thought that was extremely generous and I made sure to thank them for it. These guys are true die-hards!
In one of my free moments, I checked out Grand Theft Auto III for the PS2. That game had me laughing so hard I could barely contain myself! I guess I'm going to have to rush out and buy it for the PC!
Jason from Trade 'n' Games achieved the ultimate score on Kaboom! Over 10,000 points! Everyone gathered around the stereo game chair that he brought to watch him make the mad bomber look like a slow poke! Wow!
As the show began to wind down, I began to look around at the stuff that Slackers and Trade 'n' Games brought. It truly was video game heaven looking around at all the systems. I ended up getting a perfect boxed copy of 2600 Frogger for $5. A common for sure, but one that I did not have and always wanted. I also picked up a loose copy of Iron Soldier for the Jaguar since I had a box and a manual but no game to go with it! Now I have a complete Iron Soldier.
Several of the organizers and a few remaining die-hards stayed behind to chat about Atari even though everyone else had left. JT, who had been running around all day, got a chance to play some Jaguar games that were still new to him. I talked with Tim Wilson about the Dreamcast and James, Greg Goodwin, and I played a mega-game of Pong!
That night, I was exhausted. After I had packed up my stuff, Marianne and I went to Union Station to eat. I had such a horrible headache I could barely think straight and I was no doubt a lousy date. I had hoped to get back and help out with the clean up, but I was so worn out... I peeked into the meeting room when we got back from dinner and saw everyone still there chatting about Atari. It seems they stayed there until 2am!
Day Three - St. Louis
JagFest was over, however Marianne and I still had several hours before our plane was to leave. So we decided to go to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, Busch Stadium, and the Arch.
We were originally disappointed that the Cardinals were out of town and would not be playing any games over the weekend. This was our first trip to St. Louis and I am a HUGE Cardinals fan. However, we were able to do something even better than see a game: We got to tour Busch Stadium!
The tour started with the outside of the stadium where several Cardinal greats are immortalized in statues. The 9 World Championships (the most of any team except for the Yankees) are commemorated by 9 large columns outside the stadium. We moved into the stadium and got to see many of the exclusive areas including the $70 per seat club that is behind center field, the press box and KMOX booth where Jack Buck called so many great games, and the players entrance. Lastly, we got to go out onto the field just as I had hoped! We sat in the dugout and it felt as if I were in a shrine of history. One of the players had taped "That's a winner!" on the wall of the dugout and I thought that was very touching.
After the tour, we walked around outside of the stadium and saw the Jack Buck and Darryl Kile memorials. If nothing else, St. Louis is one of the most classiest baseball towns I've ever seen and they truly understand the importance of baseball's history. I think that in and of itself made St. Louis a great place to hold a video game convention dedicated to the most historic company ever, don't you?
We toured the Cardinals Hall of Fame and I took several pictures, including one of the 1982 Championship Trophy, the last Championship the Cardinals won. There were places dedicated to Cardinal greats like Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, and Mark McGwire. Jack Buck had an entire wall dedicated to him and the lineup included a brief message under Darryl Kile's photo: "In Loving Memory."
Next we headed to the Gateway Arch, but it was very crowded and we were worried we would be late to the airport if we were to go up. So, I placed my hand on it and looked upwards to receive a most dizzying feeling. The magnificence and beauty of the Arch is difficult to place into words and it's no wonder people walk away from it in utter awe.
The final excitement for my St. Louis visit was to stand on the shore of the mighty Mississippi. Living in Florida for most of my life, I had never traveled as far west as St. Louis before and this was the first time I got to see the legendary river where Mark Twain spent his days. I dipped my hand in the cool water and the history of the river engulfed me.
After a big lunch, we headed towards the airport on the MetroLink. The ride took us only 35 minutes from the hotel and we had lots of time left to prepare for the flight. I watched the Cardinals beat the Padres 4-1 on the airport television making my day complete. I found a copy of Jack Buck's book, "That's a Winner!" and learned from it the kindness and generosity he possessed that we all should have. He was a great tipper because he knew what it was like to be stuck in a low paying job. He always made someone's day.
After all was said and done, we had a lot fun at JagFest 2K2. Everyone who attended had an enjoyable time, however costs for this show were much larger than we originally anticipated. It seems that the hotel felt it was necessary to charge us for things that we didn't ask for (such as food.) James Garvin footed an extremely large bill and I think it would be a great thing if we as dedicated Atarian's stepped up to the plate and made a donation to help out. We have several very nice programs from the show that I will give out to anyone willing to donate $20 or more. Also, Tim Wilson is working on a DVD that will have various media from the event including pictures, video, media kits, and the program in various formats.
Send me an email if you would like to show your support. Your name will also be dedicated into the JagFest Hall of Fame! Even donating a few bucks will help out immensely!