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  • Writer's picturePenny Neef

Virginia International Tattoo Returns Live This June

A line of drummers, pipers, brass musicians, a flag bearer and a drum major standing at attention on a football field for the Tattoo press conference. They are wearing their military uniforms, or the Tattoo tartan kilts (depending on what would be appropriate)

Words by Penny Neef. Images courtesy of the Virginia International Tattoo.

Scott Jackson, Producer/Director of the Virginia International Tattoo is excited to be “reigniting the Tattoo tradition” this year in Hampton Roads. The Tattoo was cancelled in 2020, just like all other live performances. Jackson says, “It seems like only yesterday, but it also seems like a lifetime ago.”

The Virginia International Tattoo has been one of the “anchor events” since the first year of the Virginia Arts Festival more than 20 years ago. If you have no idea of what a Tattoo is, neither did I when I moved to Hampton Roads 8 years ago.

A Tattoo is a performance of military music by military bands. Over the years, it has evolved into a spectacular collection of military bands with musicians, singers, dancers and much more. The Virginia International Tattoo is the largest Tattoo in the United States. Click right here to get a feeling for the grand scale and outstanding performances of our own Virginia International Tattoo.

There is hope that we are emerging from this pandemic. The 2021 Virginia International Tattoo will be a joyful celebration of the “power of the human spirit” and the resiliency of VAF. Old Dominion University has made the new S.B. Ballard Stadium available for the first ever outdoor performance of the Tattoo with four performances from June 3 – 6. All CDC guidelines will be observed. Ballard Stadium has plenty of room for social distancing, and it is full of fresh air.

The 2021 Tattoo will be a salute to the “greatest generation” of WWII veterans. There will be a select group of bands, mostly from the United States this year, that will rehearse and perform in a “safety bubble.”

A piper, a drummer, and the american flag bearer on the football field.

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Band, U.S. Marine Forces Reserve Band, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team, Virginia Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Tidewater Pipes and Drums, Appalachian Piping Academy Pipes and Drums and more will be performing. For the first and only time this year, the ODU Monarch Marching Band and University Drumline will be on hand in their own stadium.

Master Sergeant Stacie Crowther, USMC, will be the first female Virginia International Tattoo Drum Major. Andy Carlisle, Director of Piping at Carnegie Mellon University and Virginia International Tattoo Soloist says, “It’s going to be epic.”

Jackson and his huge crew of performers and volunteers will be ready, as they always are. “The sight of bands marching with precision across the field….the massed pipes and drums in their colorful tartans…flags waving and fans rising to their feet to sing their favorite service songs – it’s once again going to be a goosebump-inducing experience.”

For more information and tickets to Virginia International Tattoo, head to

NOTE: VAF is also proud to announce the 2021 Norfolk NATO Festival International Village and Flag Raising Ceremony in conjunction with the Tattoo on Saturday, June 5 at Scope Plaza in downtown Norfolk. This is a free event and open to the public, but there are two timed sessions and registration is required to enter. For more information, see the Virginia Arts Festival website.

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