The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 20, 2013

Tattoos a big draw at Thunder

JOHNSTOWN — Joe Peterson and his friends do not usually set up their tattoo booths at motorcycle rallies.

But Thunder in the Valley is different.

For the second year in a row, Peterson, owner of Zaza Ink in West Boylston, Mass., organized a tattoo expo to coincide with Johnstown’s annual motorcycle event. Most rallies, unlike Thunder, cannot provide the type of clean and quiet atmosphere he and the other high-level artists require.

“I don’t think you’ll find a single artist in here that will tattoo out of a trailer or on the side of a street,” said Peterson. “We’re very specific. Everybody in here is a nationally known, award-winning artist. You won’t find them in trailers or places like that. We need to tattoo indoors in a clean, sterile environment. We need much more control over our environment than motorcycle rallies usually allow.”

The tattoo opened Thursday inside the Conference Center. It continues today through Saturday.

“This is normally where we would throw this kind of event anyway,” Peterson said.

More than a dozen artists from as far away as Wisconsin and Florida attended. Oftentimes, the same individuals participate in events where hundreds of artists work and compete for prizes. “This is a little lower key than what we’re used to, but, for us, it’s kind of a good chance to just get away and hang out with old buddies and get some tattooing done,” said Peterson.

Even though many customers are in town for the motorcycle rally, the artists are still asked to create a wide variety of pieces, other than just Harley-Davidson logos and other subjects associated with riding.

“Actually, last year I tattooed from the time I got here until the time I left, and I didn’t do one single motorcycle-themed tattoo while I was here,” said Troy McDaniel, owner of Lefty’s Tattoo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “You’d think there would be a lot more of it.”

Holding the expo in town provides local residents a chance to get work done by high-quality artists who they might not otherwise have access to.

“There are good tattoo artists around here, but nothing you can trust for anything too complicated, so it’s really cool,” said Hooversville resident Greg Ames before getting some flowers inked onto his arm.

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