The Calgary Highlanders will join the massed pipes and drums at the first Pacific Tattoo at Bear Mountain arena.

Pacific Tattoo hosts inaugural event this weekend

For most people, a tattoo is either an attractive body decoration or a regrettable mistake.

For most people, a tattoo is either an attractive body decoration or a regrettable mistake.

However, a traditional tattoo is an event worth travelling thousands of miles for.

The Pacific Tattoo takes place this weekend, July 14 and 15, at Bear Mountain Arena. A tattoo – a term that predates the body marking – is a demonstration of military drumming, piping and parading, full of fanfare, pomp and pageantry.

The name originally comes from the Dutch phrase for “turn off the tap.”

Drummers used to be sent out at night to call curfew, essentially letting tavern owners know they needed to stop serving drinks and send the soldiers back to base.

The phrase is “doe den tap toe,” which was shortened to “tap-too,” which was anglicized by British soldiers into “tattoo.” They brought the idea back to the United Kingdom and the tradition of the tattoo was born.

“In Canada we’ve added a bit to that,” said director Dave Terry. “We’ve taken it inside, we’ve added professional lights and sound, we’ve added some pageantry, some dancers … we’ll do a little bit of comedy. So there’s really something for everybody.”

There have been tattoos held in B.C. before, but this is the first Pacific Tattoo, an event that organizers plan to make annual. It will be the only tattoo event on the west coast of North America and is intended to rival large tattoo events in Halifax, Quebec City and even Edinburgh.

Terry has an extensive history with tattoos, including ones held in Esquimalt and Chilliwack. He said this year’s event will have around 400 participants, but the plan is to expand in the future.

“That’s a little smaller than some, but it doesn’t take away from the quality,” Terry said. “It’s certainly going to attract people from all over the province.”

In fact, there is a word for someone who travels to tattoo events around the world: a “tattourist.”

Terry said there are many people who love tattoo displays and go out of their way to see them.

To see for yourself this weekend, there is one performance at Bear Mountain Arena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and two on Sunday, at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $37.50 for adults, and $32.50 for seniors, youth and active military personnel. Tickets are available at, by phone at 250-478-8384, at the Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre (812 Wharf Street) or at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre (located just above Bear Mountain Arena).

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