Tattoo festival will bring artists, music and circus acts is your source for free local news and information in Virginia Beach

(Courtesy of
(Courtesy of

Loud buzzing will be heard throughout the Virginia Beach Convention Center this weekend.

Thousands of ink and art enthusiasts are expected to gather this weekend for the 4th annual Virginia Beach Tattoo Festival. The event, at 1000 19th St., will run today through Sunday, and is priced at $25 per day, if paid in cash. A weekend pass is $45 and there is a $35 weekend pass for members of the military. Ticket buyers will pay $2 extra for using credit cards. More than 300 artists from around the country will attend and ink dozens of pieces on the spot.

“When you walk through that door, you’ll just hear a buzz of machines going,” Event Coordinator John Cann said in a phone interview. “At some point in the day, everyone in the room will be doing a tattoo.”

Last year’s event drew about 8,500 attendees, Cann estimated. Tattoo artists will be on call for customers who’d like to sign up for a piece. Organizers added 40 artists to the lineup this year, since artists were all booked up and had to turn customers away last year.

Attendees will enjoy circus acts like flame throwing and knife swallowing. Live music will be provided by Splatter Cat, a rock group, and Johnny Trash, a hard rock band. A masked-musician and puppet-performing group, Big Nazo, will also perform.

The event will feature contests for best “day of” tattoos and best tattoos that attendees already have. Judges will look for good line work and skilled execution of shading, color and various styles, Cann said.

There will also be a kids’ tattoo contest – for temporary ink only, the website said. Each child who enters the free contest will receive a medal. But only those who are 18 years old or older can get an actual tattoo.

Still, the event is for everyone, Cann said, not just those with tattoos or tattoo artists. Though he believes there will always be somewhat of a stigma about tattoos, he has noticed the body art isn’t as neatly confined to specific demographics as it once was, he said. Nor is it just for “sailors” and “bikers,” he added, as it was perceived to be in the 60s and 70s.

“What folks are coming to realize, is that man who just saved your life in the ER (emergency room) might have tattoos,” Cann said. 

Cann himself has tattoos spanning the length of his body. He views the ink as a walking journal. Having studied sociology and psychology at the graduate level, on his side he bears a portrait of Sigmund Freud, considered the founder of psychoanalysis. As the owner of a graphic design company, Twisted Ink Ltd., he also has a printing-press tattoo on his chest.

He urges folks who don’t have tattoos to attend. Those who are interested in getting a tattoo have a chance see the process up close. A coupon for a $5 discount on a weekend pass can be found here.

“Even if you don’t have a tattoo, you should check it out,” Cann said, “because it’s a part of your mainstream culture. Even though it’s considered a subculture, it’s very much alive and it’s fun.”