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El Paso Tattoo Festival A Popular Draw

For the first time, a giant tattoo festival is taking place in El Paso, and many artists say during this period of economic turmoil, their business is more or less recession-proof.

The buzz of the needle is the universal language for these tattoo artists, who’ve come to the El Paso County Coliseum from all over the world. And they say over the last several years, as many businesses fell into the red, they’ve seen plenty of green, not to mention all those other colors.

“It grows – annually you see it growing,” says George Galiendo, the local organizer. But business isn’t just strong in El Paso.

“I think it’s kind of like that comfort food. Even when the economy is down and people are having a hard time with their jobs, and they’re not making as much money, really the only impact I’ve seen on my industry is my tips are a little smaller,” said Joe Peterson, a tattoo artist from Massachusetts.

Chiseling a picture of Bob Dylan into Nicholas Villescas’ arm, this artist says even at $150 an hour, people tell him it’s worth the money because it’ll last forever.

“This is something I take pride in, you know what I mean? It’s kind of a love I have for the art. So if I have to save a little here and there, that’s what I do. It’s worth it. All the time,” said Villescas.

“I still get tattooed daily. I’m getting tattooed this weekend. So it hasn’t really affected me. I just keep saving my money for my tattoos,” said another fan attending the festival.

In fact, organizers say more than half the people who walk in here will leave with some new art, somewhere on their body.

So does Nicholas worry he might not want the Dylan tattoo in a few years? “Maybe if I got someone now – barely coming out – like Lady Gaga, maybe I’d regret that. But it’s Bob Dylan,” he said.

And it will remain Bob Dylan – on his arm – forever.

The festival runs through the 4th of July weekend. Tickets are $20 Saturday and $25 Sunday.

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