The line at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum wrapped around the block and down the street on Tuesday. Many had been waiting since the early morning hours in hopes of getting a free tattoo from some of the area’s most experienced artists. There was a catch, though.

The tattoo had to be one of the three Old Bay-themed designs created in partnership with McCormick as a special promotional offer ahead of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. The first-come, first-serve event saw people choosing whether to forever etch a crab, mallet or black-eyed Susan — all with the Old Bay logo, of course — on their skin.

Hunter Spanks, left, and Tory Destromp tattoo Old Bay designs onto fans of the spice at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum on May 16. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
People could choose from one of these three Old Bay designs. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
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Michael Agugliaro entered the line at 6:15 a.m., ready to take on the crab design because he thought the crustaceans seemed funny looking and taste good. “I’ve always wondered what I’d look like with one [a tattoo]. I thought about it and was like, ‘You know what? I’m ready to go,’” he said. “I’ve heard it feels like a cat scratch on a sunburn, but I have no idea what to expect.”

Tory Destromp tattoos a crab on Michael Augliaro.
Tory Destromp tattoos a crab. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

David Bednar is already quite familiar with what the process feels like. Since he already has several tattoos, one more didn’t seem like a big deal. He learned about the event from a friend at work, Dewar General Contracting, who told him, “‘You go document it and we’ll put it on Instagram or whatever. We need social media content.’” But Bednar, who recently moved from New Jersey to Charm City, said his new crab design would still have a special meaning: “This tattoo will be commemorative of me moving here and being stoked on Baltimore.”

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Carrie Meushaw, who sat next to him in line on a lawn chair in preparation for the long wait, had another reason entirely for getting the free tattoo. In town this past weekend from New York to visit her family for Mother’s Day, Meushaw extended her trip after learning about the opportunity so she and her mom could get tattoos together, something they had done years prior when Meushaw turned 18.

“I was going to leave Sunday but a friend of mine in D.C. sent me the details for this event, because, well, Old Bay. My dad has always had that in the cupboard. He calls it ‘mother’s milk’ because it goes with everything,” said Meushaw, who planned to get the crab ink. Meushaw’s mother, Melinda, who opted for the black-eyed Susan design, added, “She was supposed to go home, but I couldn’t let her so I went and got her and we took the back way to get down here at 8:30 a.m.”

Carrie Meushaw, left, and David Bednar, right, wait in line at The Baltimore Tattoo Museum on May 16, 2023.
Carrie Meushaw, left, and David Bednar wait in line at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Dante K and Alicia K sit outside in the line in hopes of getting a free Old Bay tattoo. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Hundreds lined up to receive a free Old Bay-themed tattoo at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

The event was from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but by 11:30 a.m. there was already an estimated 200 people in line, and only 47 people were ultimately tattooed. Though seven artists worked throughout the day, the crab option was the most popular for participants and took the longest to tattoo.

McCormick public relations manager Cierra Colón said that the event commemorating the beloved spice was to ramp up excitement for the weekend ahead. “Preakness and Old Bay are two Maryland traditions, so it just made sense,” she said.

Katie McHale arrived in line at 4:45 a.m. to make sure she was able to get her free crab tattoo. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Katie McHale’s completed tattoo by artist Tyler Brewer. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Janae Littlejohn shows off a photo of her new and only ink, an Old Bay black-eyed Susan. She came to the event with her two sisters. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
Nelly Littlejohn gets tattooed by Chris Keaton. Littlejohn came with her two sisters.
Nelly Littlejohn, one of Janae's sisters, gets tattooed by Chris Keaton. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)
The Littlejohns weren’t the only ones who made getting a tattoo a family affair. Zach Stuprich shows his new crab off to his brother Mike Stuprich, who got the same design. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

Kaitlin Newman is a photojournalist specializing in multimedia coverage. Her main areas of focus are politics, conflict, feature and breaking news. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing from Towson University, which is where she is also the professor of photojournalism.

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