People stopping by Lethbridge’s Exhibition Park over the weekend had the opportunity to get a different kind of jab.
“It’s a tattoo convention,” said Ash Woods, organizer of the Windy City Tattoo Show. “You’re coming down and getting tattoos all weekend.”
And not just tattoos: burlesque and suspensions, piercings, beer gardens, and even a Fear Factor-style bug eating competition were all part of the annual three-day Windy City Tattoo Show.
The event also brought in 120 artists from across Canada.
Tattoo studios have been subject to the changing public health measures in Alberta throughout the pandemic. But Woods, and other artists at the show, said how they carry out their work hasn’t actually changed too much.
“We’ve always followed the same guidelines that everybody now has to follow,” said Woods. “So it’s kind of interesting that way.”
Tattoo shops have always been subject to strict health guidelines. Using gloves and single-use hygiene products isn’t new to artists, but they did fall victim to supply shortages because of it.
“It’s been a little bit of a challenge to keep up with everything, gloves and stuff,” said Monty Ricken, owner of Monsters Inc. in Medicine Hat. “But for the most part it hasn’t stopped us from working — it’s just been a little more of a challenge.”
“Being shut down and being told we aren’t doing things properly is very frustrating. But we try to make sure that everybody has a good time, gets a tattoo safely and feels safe.”
Masking and social distancing has been the biggest change in Ricken’s shop. Customers aren’t allowed to bring a friend or loved one in to their appointment with them, and the artists in the studio are more spaced out.
“We’re really close to people so it really makes you stop and think about the personal space thing,” said Ricken.
Having put on the same event in 2020, Woods felt ready to do it again this year.
“It was the first show that was put on in Canada after the first shut down of COVID-19,” she said. “So we kind of knew what we were walking into this year, which gave us a little bit of ease.”
But on Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced a new set of public health measures to combat the fourth wave of COVID-19 and ease the stress on the health-care system. Some of those new measures came into effect on Thursday, with the rest following on Monday.
The Windy City Tattoo Show falls under the venues category, where the new public health measures don’t start until Monday.
When Woods first heard Wednesday’s announcement, she said she was confused and felt like she had more questions than answers as to whether the Windy City Tattoo Show could go ahead.
“For a couple hours I was quite stressed. But I’m very happy we got to continue the weekend and everybody seems to be having a great time.”
Jai Vanhardeveld was one of the people who stopped by the show. From Saskatchewan, he said having the opportunity to get tattooed by Ricken is what brought him down to the windy city.
“It’s the quality of work that he does,” he said.
“He’s worth travelling for.”
And Vanhardeveld is no stranger to getting a tattoo. He doesn’t know how many pieces he has, but said there’s over 70 hours of work on his body.
Because of the already strict health guidelines in place when it comes to getting tattooed, he felt safe getting more work done during the pandemic.
“Once I’m at the studio, I know that I’m in a safe space because they do more sanitation than anybody else,” said Vanhardeveld.
“They deal with blood-borne pathogens on a daily basis, so they’re more aware of the potential hazards then most industries.”
Signs encouraging masking and social distancing were set up around the event space.
And if people were looking for a different kind of jab, an Alberta Health Services vaccination clinic could be found next door.
The Windy City Tattoo Show is an annual event in Lethbridge that will take place in September 2022.