All you’ll hear this weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds is the industrial hum of needles.
The fourth annual Ink Life Tattoo and Musical Festival, a three-day expo of ink and entertainment, got underway Friday at the Special Events Center.
It marks the first time the tat fest has traveled to Tampa.
“We get a lot of hits on our website from this area,” said George Galindo, a tattoo artist and festival founder. “We’re hoping people bring their families and enjoy the event so we can bring it back even bigger next year.”
More than 200 tattoo artists from across the country and locals set-up booths inside the center to show off their talent and sell products including tattoos supplies, artwork, clothing and jewelry. Many clients, who had set up appointments online weeks ago, promptly headed to their artists when the doors opened.
At Stelios Chimpouras’s booth, Zack Johnson of Punta Gorda received some extra ink on the Albert Einstein-inspired creation on his arm. For Johnson, it’s not just about the tattoo, it’s about the person drawing it on him.
“I love his work,” said Johnson of Stelios. “He started this tattoo and I won’t let anyone else touch it.”
Friday, Stelios added an antique hand-held mirror to the black and gray creation that already includes an antique clock with disintegrating parts and flying birds.
“It reminds me not to live my life by time,” said Johnson, 21, a student. “To enjoy every moment of every day.”
Nearby artist James Vaughn prepared to ink a colorful neo-Japanese dragon on the chest of Stanley Beatty, who drove from Orlando to see him.
“I love his style,” Beatty said of Vaughn, a finalist on season one of Spike TV’s “Ink Master.” “It’s big. It’s bold. And it’s bad. The (dragon) will balance the out the koi on my chest. I just love seeing colorful art on my body.”
Rosa Manconi made her appointment weeks in advance to get inked at the festival by Jamy Carreno of Great American Tattoo in Franklin, Ind., Carreno added a “Day of the Dead” lady on Manconi’s arm.
“It just makes me happy,” said Manconi, a homemaker. “I thought I would only get one tattoo, now I have four. This (event) is great because it allows me to get a tattoo from someone like (Jamy) without having to travel to her.”
Mike Griff went purely for shock value in his choice of tattoo.
The New Port Richey man traveled to the festival to receive a very explicit tattoo involving a cadaver on his ribs. Two tattoo artists turned him down before Pete Carreno took on the six-hour job.
“It’s just an incredible work of art,” said Griff, who works in security. For Sandy Castaneda, tattoos help tell her life story.
Castaneda’s husband, “Big Ceeze,” owner of Mi Familia Tattoo Studio in Anaheim, Calif., created each of her more than 30 tats, which include photos of her parents, cherubs, a sacred heart, angels and Jesus Christ.
“Every single one of my tattoos is meaningful and significant,” said Castaneda, who has two full sleeves of tattoos. “I always tell people who want a tattoo to get something meaningful, not trendy. That way it will never go out of style.”
Many of the tattoo artists will take walk-up clients during the festival.
The three-day event also features live entertainment, magic shows and tattoo contests.
The festival continues 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 a day or $35 for a weekend pass. For information, visit www.inklifetour.com.