Health concerns bring attention to tattoo festival

Jordan Crawford | 8/15/2013, 10:44 a.m.
A tattoo festival is in the works for this weekend but a regulation has become a hassle for even planners.
Virginia Beach public officials claim they welcome the festival but city code must be complied with.

It seems the best way to express newly acquired adulthood now is to get a tattoo. Well, Virginia Beach plans to treat amateur adults to a possible field day, along with others of a ripened age, but there is a hitch.

A tattoo festival is in the works, but a regulation has become a public health concern for city officials, and a hassle for event planners.

Less than a week before Virginia Beach's first tattoo festival, the city and a festival promoter are quarreling over whether visiting tattoo artists need to show proof they have hepatitis B vaccination shots.

City Attorney Mark Stiles says the city code requires it -- end of story.

"The issue is some of these folks may not have the inoculation," he said.

Festival co-founder John Cann said Virginia tattoo artists have the shots because state code requires it, but they might have trouble finding the paperwork, especially if they had their shots years ago. Artists coming to the event from other states might not be required to have the shots and as a result cannot participate in the festivities. Hepatitis B is a contagious disease of the liver spread by infected blood and other body fluids.

Cann said he had planned on having about 200 tattoo artists from across the country at the festival but is worried some might not come because of the law.

The Virginia Beach Tattoo Festival is scheduled for August 16-18 at the convention center. Cann said he expects 20,000 attendees.

Besides tattooing, the event will include circus sideshows, a pin-up girl contest, pro skateboarders, a mustache contest, live music and temporary tattoos for kids.

Cann, also the publisher of Twisted Ink, a magazine of tattoo culture, organized the Hampton Roads Tattoo Festival in Hampton for the past three years. He said that the city did not require proof of shots. He wonders whether Virginia Beach is deliberately trying to block the show.

City officials say they welcome the festival. Attorney Stiles said, "All we're saying is that you have to comply with that code section."