Vendors, Attendees Call Ink N Iron Festival A Flop

Posted at 10:30 PM, Aug 10, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn - The last of the Ink and Iron Festival started coming down Monday, but there are plenty of people who will tell you it started coming apart Friday night.

"We didn't find out until as they were supposed to come on stage," one fan said Friday night as they learned headliner Merle Haggard would not be taking the stage.

Haggard tweeted that he would not perform his Friday show because of a contract issue.

He had performed the previous night, but sources say he hadn't been paid.

"A few of the tattoo vendors even said it was a little unorganized and they were unsure about what days and where they could set up," said another attendee leaving the canceled Haggard concert.

That was Friday, vendors and attendees say the rest of the weekend didn't go much better.

"It's expected for a promoter to lie. It's not expected for a promoter to lie this big," said Neil Autry, who traveled from Pennsylvania to sell his Western Evil clothing line.

Autry says he had to pay $700 dollars for his spot on Bicentennial Mall and with 40,000 people expected to show up it shouldn't have been hard to make back.

"I did not make back the money that I had to invest into the show," he said. "I know the gentleman had a stand next to me only made five dollars. We were told on Friday that presales were 10,000 for Friday alone and no one was in there."

"Sunday was billed as one of the major days, and they were running for the hills," said vendor Jon Drew who also traveled from out of state to take part in the festival.

Trace Edwards is a spokesperson for Ink N Iron. He says the festival has been wildly popular in Long Beach, Calif. for more than a decade.

Edwards says the festival moved to Nashville this year because the city had courted organizers.

"There was probably less people through the gate than anybody could have anticipated for the amount of advertising and marketing," Edwards said.

He says the vendors at the tattoo side of the festival all made money. The tattoo convention was inside Municipal Auditorium.

The music, motorcycle and food truck side of the festival was at Bicentennial Mall a few blocks away.

Carey Bringle owns Peg Leg Porker BBQ in the Gulch.

"We did lose money due to low attendance," Bringle said via email. "There was a fee to vend and we did not even make back that fee, let alone the wasted food and labor cost. It was bad enough that we did not man our booth and sell on Sunday."

Bringle says all of the extra food prepared for the weekend was donated to a local homeless shelter.

"We've had a learning curve here in Nashville," Edwards said. "But we've learned a lot and we'll fix it. We've got a five year deal with the park."

But plenty say they will not be back.

Edwards was not able to provide attendance numbers for the weekend.

The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation says it will be doing a review of how this year went before it will issue any new contracts to Ink N Iron in the future.

Drew said had there been some sort of apology at all from the organizers it would have made it a little easier to take.

"We have been on the festival circuit for years , and we know that first year festivals have hiccups, but there is a right and wrong way to deal with them," he said.

Bringle says he too knew they were taking a risk.

"We have a restaurant to fall back on so it's not so bad for us. For the food trucks, they lost an opportunity to make money somewhere else," he said.

Until this year, Ink N Iron had always been hosted in Long Beach, California on board the Queen Mary cruise ship.