Immersed in Ink Tattoo Arts and Horror Festival brings pre-Halloween horror to Champaign-Urbana

While Halloween may still be a few weeks out, the Immersed in Ink Tattoo Arts and Horror Festival is bringing the creepy atmosphere to Champaign-Urbana starting Friday with live tattooing, body suspension and celebrity guests.

The festival will be visiting Champaign for the first time as the final stop on its ten-city tour. It will take place at the Fluid Event Center, located at 601 N. Country Fair Drive, on Friday beginning at 2 p.m. and will continue through the weekend ending Sunday night. Tickets are $20 each day and a weekend pass costs $35. On Friday, a $5 discount for the day will be given to anyone wearing a costume.

One of the main attractions is live tattooing. Three Champaign artists will be featured at the festival for the first time: Eric Cain from Flatland Tattoo as well as Justin Brewer and Sean McMillan from Revolt Tattoo Studio. Revolt is also one of the festival’s sponsors.

With more than 78 tattoo artists on tour from all over the country, there are plenty of options for those who are considering getting inked.

“There is a large pool of artists to choose from, so maybe if there is something that’s not a specialty of people in your area or if there’s a particular person you really like … they are going to be there,” Cain said.

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However, according to Cain, due to the cost of purchasing a booth and traveling, artists often need to increase their rates.

Planning ahead is also important.

“If you’ve got the artist in mind and know what you want to get done, it’s always best to make an appointment, especially at a convention,” Brewer said.

Getting a tattoo at a festival can also be a different experience than having it done in a private shop, according to Brewer. While there is no equipment limitation, “it’s just more fast-paced,” McMillan said. “There’s so many people around and then you get crowds gathering around you.”

Public tattooing may not be quiet and relaxing, but it is definitely safe, according to Brewer. Everything is fully regulated by the state, and there will be no amateur stick-and-pokes either.

“Anyone and everyone that’s there has to have their tattoo license, they have to have their blood-borne pathogens, everything has to be safe and regulated. And that’s good,” Brewer said.

No festival would be complete without celebrity guests, and the Tattoo and Horror Festival is no exception. Horror movie stars Tony Moran and Bob Elmore, better known as Michael Myers from “Halloween” and Leatherface from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” are featured in Q-and-A panels along with nine other actors, makeup artists and stuntmen. Additionally, fans of “The Walking Dead” can see Michonne’s zombie pets — Moses Mosely and Leshay West — at the festival.

Tattoo model Heather Moss and her husband Bobby Moss are the celebrity artists at the festival. The couple owns a tattoo parlor in Arizona called Timeless Art Tattoo.

For fans, the festival is a perfect opportunity to talk to a favorite actor or artist because, according to McMillan, the celebrities are willing to speak with festival goers.

“That’s why they’re there: to be bothered,” he said.

Horror, the other subject of the festival, is also readily available and not for the faint of heart.

Human suspension performance and sideshows will be performed by 313 Suspension. The two shows include “hooks, flesh, sparks, fire and who knows what else,” wrote Stephen Bennett, 313 piercer, in an email.

The Captain’s Sideshow and Tom Hills’ Carnival of Curiosity and Chaos add a sideshow element to the festival. The Carnival features fire-breathers, burlesque and straightjacket escapes. The Captain’s Sideshow is a solo act by Dustin Mathis, which is sponsored by Metal Mafia.

Described by Mathis as a “punk-rock, Coney Island kind of show,” the acts test the limits of his pain threshold with stunts such as jumping on broken glass and laying on a bed of nails.

The “Carnie Sandwich” entails laying between two beds of nails while a cinderblock and human volunteer are put on top. A crowd-favorite, the “Mousetrap High-Five” includes two people, ten mousetraps and is “probably the worst thing in the world,” Mathis said.

The Captain will be performing two 30-minute shows each day as well as piercing, tattooing and selling body jewelry with Brent Barry. Every act varies based on crowd participation; it is not a scripted show, according to Mathis.

“Our one rule is ‘the louder you get for us, the more crazy we’re going to get for you,’” he said.

Visitors may not want to volunteer to be part of the entertainment, but the daily tattoo contests, costume contests and Ms. Tattoo Pageant can be entered by the public.

The festival provides entertainment of all sorts from start to finish.

“They’re a really good time. There are bars there and shows going on, so you can go walk around with your drink and do whatever you want,” McMillan said. “It’s worth checking out.”

Lillian can be reached at [email protected].