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First Posted: 8/21/2014

If social media and local hype are any indication of how successful this year’s annual Tattoo Festival will be, then NEPA better get ready.

In its second year, the festival is expected to draw in people from as far away as Ecuador (yes, the country). Buzz about the event is everywhere and Steve Gulbin, one of the event organizers, said the festival is an event for everyone, not just those with tattoos.

“It’s honestly an experience whether you’re tattooed or not tattooed, if you have piercings or you don’t,” he said. “If you like art, if you like the visualization. If you like looking at art on skin or on canvas this is the place to be. It’s a very big celebration of the art of tattooing. It’s going to be a really fun event.”

The fun will kick off Friday night at the Best Western Genetti Hotel and Conference Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre and continue through Sunday. Live musical entertainment, nearly a dozen vendors and all the celebrity tattoo artists one could hope for, will be on hand.

Jon Mesa, James Vaughn, Sarah Miller, Timothy Boor, Paul Acker and Jason Ackerman are some of the artists who will be at the event.

“There’s actually a dude coming from Ecuador to get a tattoo from Megan Massacre,” he said.

The tattoo icon will also be a celebrity judge during the event’s pageant on Saturday night, hosted by tattoo model, Miss Mary Leigh Maxwell

“It’s a pinup style pageant. It’s not trashy it’s ’50s style classy,” Gulbin said.

Anyone can participate, and should. All money raised during the contest will be donated to Blue Chip Farm Animal Rescue.

“Tattooed people seem to go very well with animals,” Gulbin said. “Everywhere I go, there seems to be a lot of tattooed people with all sorts of animals. Maybe because we’re really nice people and we’re nice to animals.”

Last year the event drew 1,400 people, Gulbin said.

This year: “One million people,” he said with a laugh. “Aw, that’s just wishful thinking. I’d like to see at least that many (1,400) hopefully double it.”

Why is the festival such a draw?

“The event is an opportunity for collectors to get a tattoo by someone they might not have the opportunity to get tattooed by,” Gulbin said.

But it’s not a walk-up-and-get-inked kind of deal, at least with the big names in the game.

Gulbin said “with people of that caliber” it’s best to make arrangements with the artist before hand.

“But there are a lot of artists taking walk-ups,” he said. “That’s the whole concept of the event.”

Attendees are encouraged to buy weekend passes since there is so much to see and do, but Gulbin said day passes are available. People can come and go as they please and are encouraged to explore the area.

“It allows people to get out into the downtown and see the wonderful options we have for food and everything else,” he said.

For a full list of entertainers, artists and vendors, visit the festival’s website at