CHEYENNE – Trinidad Serrano always wanted to bring a tattoo festival to Cheyenne. But when he tried to create one in 2011, he realized he’d have to go in front of the Cheyenne City Council to make it happen.

“It was a lot of work. I actually had to create some laws to make this possible,” he said. “They had never had any temporary [tattoo] artists permits or temporary [tattoo] event licensing, so I had to go to City Council meetings and present to them about what tattoo expos are.”

While there were already licenses for more traditional visual art festivals, Serrano said the issue was with the potential threat of blood-borne pathogens that comes along with live tattooing, but he was able to create and obtain a permit that people can now use for other events throughout Laramie County.

After taking a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Serrano’s 4-Ever West Tattoo Festival returns for its fifth year this week, taking place today through Sunday. There will be 40 tattoo artists from across the U.S. inside the Cheyenne Depot offering walk-up tattoo appointments, and the event lineup also includes a “tattoo rodeo” on Friday; a car show, pin-up contest, tattoo contest, arm wrestling tournament, and mustache and beard competition on Saturday; and the “tattoo of the day” announced Sunday.

Pine Bluffs-based teen band Galactic Lemons will play in the evenings, and Paint Slingers, the street art festival that emerged out of the tattoo festival a few years ago, will be going on throughout downtown and the West Edge all of Saturday and Sunday.

Serrano was the first person to bring live hip-hop concerts to the Depot Plaza when he held one in conjunction with his first tattoo festival, and he’s happy to see that that’s starting to become a more regular occurrence. Combining several types of art into one festival has always been his go-to method.

“It’s great to be able to get a variety of amazing artists in one location,” Serrano said. “And it’s something that hadn’t been done in Cheyenne until I brought it, so it was just something I always wanted to do.”

Serrano has been tattooing for 20 years, and after traveling to expos across the country, he’s become friends with tattoo artists in several states. That’s why he didn’t even need a sign-up form for his artists – he simply called up a bunch of friends and got them to head to the Equality State.

Even though getting artists to commit isn’t a challenge, the logistics of securing the date, venue, sponsors and more takes a great deal of work, but Serrano keeps at it because of what it does for his community.

He’s proud to be a tattoo artist in a state where there are few people, let alone creative people producing body art, and he sees the festival as a chance to put Wyoming on the map.

“[My motivation?] that it’s a successful event and that the people of Cheyenne love it,” he said. “I’m from Wyoming, born and raised, and when I’m tattooing in California or Philadelphia or wherever people are like, ‘Wyoming? What do you guys do in Wyoming?’ and I tell them whatever ... we want.”

His intention with the growth of the 4-Ever West Tattoo Festival is to include more events that can appeal to all sorts of locals and visitors alike, especially because not everybody is interested in getting – or let alone admiring – a tattoo.

“The more, the merrier,” he said. “I feel like the bigger variety, the more you can pull different crowds. … I don’t want to just make it about one thing, I want to make it about a variety of things.”

Niki Kottmann is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s features editor. She can be reached at nkottmann@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter at @niki_mariee.

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