Once upon a time, two Flagstaff tattoo artists had an idea. Rather than traveling to Prescott or Phoenix, what if they could bring some of their favorite artists here for a convention? Fast forward to this time last year, and they finally achieved their goals, bringing the Peaks Tattoo Expo to the Hotel Monte Vista for the first time.

Cameron Chase and Sugar, artists at Mirror Gallery, now bring the event back for a second round coming off of last year’s success.

“We made something [that came from] just this little idea, and honestly the whole entire way I remember many people being like, ‘No, that’s not a thing, you can’t do that,’ and we freaking did it,” recalls event coordinator Alex Kulig. “And we’re doing it again.”

Kulig, along with marketing manager Jenn Vargas and hotel manager Lindsay Kelsey, have been working with Sugar and Chase again to present a bigger and better tattoo convention.

The two artists handpicked talent from all over to come out and tattoo in hotel rooms—including Randy Vollink, a Mesa-based cosmetic tattoo artist who was featured in season four of the Spike TV show Ink Masters.

Also, fresh off their performance of TILT, Dark Sky Aerial is collaborating with the hotel again to perform throughout the weekend with stilt walkers, pole dancing and aerial performances on the rooftop. (“Weather permitting,” Kelsey says.)

The local forecast doesn’t predict a chance of rain until Sunday though, so weather woes aside, prepare for a unique event that encompasses a diverse slate of entertainment for all to enjoy even if a new tattoo isn’t in the cards.

Other events featured during the expo this weekend include live music by Outlaw Inlaws, Three Bad Jacks and Al Foul in the lounge, a pin-up model competition, food provided by the 3’s in the Trees and pool and dart competitions, providing entertainment while waiting for a tattoo appointment or just passing through.

“It was cool [last year] because there were some people you just wouldn’t expect,” Kelsey says. “There was a family of four that walked through. I sold them tickets and they all got little matching tattoos, just random people from California coming through Flagstaff.”

One thing that makes this event unique and a reason why it hasn’t been done before is the strict health codes regarding tattooing in the county. Tattoo shops in Coconino County are required to provide each artists with their own sink, but the health department has granted the expo with a pass that allows them to have two artists per sink. Each of the artists participating in the expo also had to take a test to ensure they are familiar with the unique requirements, including a refresher in blood-borne pathogen training.

“At first we were afraid that people wouldn’t wanna do that cause it takes time but they actually all appreciate the fact that everybody’s gonna be certified by the health department,” Sugar says.

“They appreciate knowing that things are handled properly,” adds Chase. 

At the end of each day, artists will have the option of entering their pieces into categories to compete for the best arm or leg sleeve, black and white tattoo, color tattoo, portrait, traditional and much more.

“We’re doing more competitions, it’ll be all three days so our trophies are even doper this year,” says Sugar.

“They’re probably the coolest things, honestly, because it’s a big collaboration with artists in town,” Kulig adds.

Brian Martin of local company Radiant Hearts LLC is making the trophies by burning the expo logo onto tree cookies. The cross sections display the rings of the tree they were cut from and still have the bark around the edges, giving the plaques a rustic look.  

“It goes with the vibe so much,” Chase says.

“Next year they’ll be even cooler ‘cause I’m gonna hand cut that s*** when I go back to Illinois,” Sugar adds.

As an added bonus, the whole event will be documented by photographer Sherry House for her online alternative magazine House Ink.

“We put it out there as quickly as we could last year, we didn’t have a lot of time or even budget to do advertisement and this year we’ve been putting this stuff everywhere we can for months and months and months now,” says Kulig. “I have no doubt that this year is gonna be awesome.”

The second annual Peaks Tattoo Expo begins Friday from 2-9 p.m. at the Hotel Monte Vista, 100 N. San Francisco St. Saturday the event runs from noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Single-day passes are $15 or $30 for the whole weekend. Visit www.thepeaksexpo.com for more info.

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