Bozo's Grand Prize Game

Bozo's Grand Prize Game

Retro Coin Op Synopsis

For decades, local Chicago kids (and eventually, kids across the country) dreamed of a chance to win cash and prizes in Bozo the Clown’s famous “Grand Prize Game.” Dreamed up by producer Don Sandburg for WGN-Chicago’s Bozo’s Circus in 1962, the Grand Prize Game was the highest of high-stakes drama for kids. On each episode of the show, one lucky boy and one lucky girl were selected from the studio audience to come down and test their ball-tossing skills.

Six buckets were set up in a straight line in front of the contestant, each one a bit farther than the last. To win the coveted silver dollars (one each day until somebody won) and Schwinn bicycle, the kids had to toss one ball into each bucket, one at a time from ‘1’ to ‘6,’ and a single mistake meant “game over” for that poor little soul. Prizes were awarded for each bucket, but the crème de la crème only went to the most skilled.

Over the years, the Grand Prize Game became legendary on kids’ TV, as syndicated Bozo shows across the globe began running their own versions. Seeing a winner in the making, arcade manufacturers ICE (makers of the famous Chexx bubble hockey game) decided to bring Bozo’s Grand Prize Game to every kid with access to an arcade.

The coin-operated Bozo’s Grand Prize Game played just like WGN’s version, only without the pressure of a studio audience, TV cameras, and an encouraging clown at your back. Balls still had to be tossed into buckets (bigger kids quickly learned the unsportsmanlike “lean in overhead and win every time” maneuver), and prizes could still be won with the redemption tickets the game dispensed.

Bozo’s Grand Prize Game continues to be a hit for ICE, and the company has released an updated version, allowing two players to compete simultaneously. The newer machines also opened up a second method of play: racing the clock, players tried to get as many balls into as many buckets as possible, earning more tickets for the tougher buckets. The TV “Grand Prize Game” still draws Chicago-area hopefuls every Sunday as well, turning six buckets and six balls into a pressure-filled test of hands and nerves.

Arcade Machine Release History

1960s - Bozo's Grand Prize Game

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