Colorado Springs is the new Las Vegas.
Well, not quite.
But with somewhere around 35 registered tattoo shops, the Springs is starting to rival Vegas in the number of parlors, per capita. So, logically, a tattoo festival should draw a large crowd.
At least that's what local tattoo artist Paes from Above Suspicion thought when he moved here almost two years ago. So he set about organizing that kind of event.
First he called the experts, Tony Olivas and Tom DePriest, fellow tattoo artists who've run a successful tattoo convention in Atlanta for the past 12 years.
"We wanted to bring some better tattooing into the spotlight here in town," Paes says. "There's a lot of decent artists here [in Colorado Springs], but this is more about giving the public a chance to get tattooed by guys they would've otherwise never had a chance to."
The inaugural Colorado Springs Tattoo Arts Festival will feature between 80 and 100 world-renowned artists, according to DePriest, who agreed to help organize the convention.
"[The artists] have won multiple trophies, have had a lot of press, and people will fly from all over the world to get tattooed by them," DePriest says. "They are almost a household name in tattooing."
DePriest, Olivas and Paes personally invited all the artists participating in the festival, including talent from local shops Art with a Pulse, Pikes Peak Tattoo and Snake's Tattoo. Every year, hundreds of artists put their names on the Atlanta convention's waiting list, but DePriest and Olivas are very particular about who they'll work with.
"These are people we've dealt with for years and years," DePriest says. "We know the quality of their work and their safety habits."
Safety also was a big concern for the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment. Paes says he spent more than a year appealing to the department for a temporary event license. The process involved filling out piles of paperwork, attending department meetings and proving that the convention would be clean and safe.
DePriest and Olivas are taking plenty of precautions on their own, to ensure the safety of the artists and their clients. They're requiring that all articipating artists be bloodborne-pathogen certified. The certification educates artists on the dangers of microorganisms located in human blood that can cause diseases.
"My feeling is that if you don't have a bloodborne pathogen certification, you have no business in the industry," says DePriest. "Once we protect ourselves, we're protecting our client."
The convention will feature an array of artists specializing in anything from realism to portraits to animals. According to DePriest, this is the perfect time to get a tattoo from an exceptional artist.
But even if you're not interested in getting inked, DePriest says you ought to come down just to drink in the atmosphere.
"We want people to recognize tattooing as a true art form and we're trying to erase the stigma that tattoo people are into drugs or are criminals," says DePriest. "We're actual good people with families."
Colorado Springs Tattoo Arts Festival
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 2886 S. Circle Drive
Friday, Feb. 8 to Sunday, Feb. 10, 2-7 p.m. daily
Tickets $20-$40; call 328-1544 for more.