Electric City Tattoo Convention draws crowds with plenty of ink on display

                                The 12th Annual Electric City Tattoo Convention was held this weekend on the second floor of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Scranton.
Margaret Roarty | Times Leader
The 12th annual Electric City Tattoo Convention, held on Saturday at the Hilton Hotel in Scranton’s downtown area, was held on the second floor. Margaret Roarty, Times Leader| Times Leader

SCRANTON — If you walked into the Hilton Hotel in downtown Scranton this weekend, chances are your ears were immediately hit with the sound of more than 100 tattoo machines, all buzzing at once.

The 12th Annual Electric City Tattoo Convention was entering its final days when the persistent hum from the second level filtered down into the lobby. It beckoned those who were eager to get some new tattoos.

“Everybody’s been busy,” said Elijah Birtel, co-owner of Electric City Tattoo and “right-hand man” to convention organizer, James “Woody” Wodock. Birtel’s task this year was to organize the tattoo contests. With everyone working so hard, it was difficult for him to find judges.

The bulk of the contests took place on Friday and Saturday, with Sunday’s Tattoo of the Day being the final contest of the convention. Birtel said they tried to cover “the basic styles of tattoos” with categories ranging from Best Realism Tattoo to Best Tribal Tattoo. The artists received trophies and the tattoo wearer was given a gift bag with a small prize.

Birtel, who struggled to find artists to judge this year’s contests, seemed to be more than satisfied with the response.

“It was a great weekend, definitely,” Birtel said. “Nice and relaxed. There were no major problems and everybody seemed pretty happy.”

Both artists and attendees were reunited at the convention. Because a majority of the artists return year after year, Birtel said it was a great opportunity to catch up with one another and check out each other’s work.

According to Birtel, roughly 180 tattoo artists from across the country participated in this weekend’s convention.

It was difficult to imagine that so many people could be crammed into such a tiny space when looking up from the lobby. However, the floor plan was misleading.

There was a maze of rooms up there and over the weekend, artists’ booths lined every inch of them. People walked in swarms up and down the aisles looking at portfolios. Many people had plastic wrapped around their arms and legs to protect their new tattoos against infection. Not a single customer was behind a booth.

Vendors also sold everything from antiques and handmade crafts. Loyalty Barber Shop sold merchandise and offered haircuts in the lobby.

Brianne Sienkiewicz from Middletown in New York was simply happy to be part of the event. Sienkiewicz, who had been to the convention several times in the past, said that while she was open to getting a tattoo this year, it probably wasn’t going to happen because of how busy everyone was.

“Even so,” she said, “it was just cool to see their work.”

For tattoo artist and owner of Small World Tattoo, Tom Veling, this year’s convention was special because it was his first one in nearly 10 years. Veling looked proud as he looked around at the crowd that was gathered near his booth.

“It’s nice to be back,” he said, simply.

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