Last year, if you happened to be on a Fourth Avenue sidewalk around dusk on the third Saturday in October, you either were part of a mass 28 Days Later-style takeover, or an unknowing snack strolling toward eminent doom. If the latter is true, hopefully you had heard about the Tucson Zombie Walk before you encountered the writhing mess of the dressed-up undead. Nothing to turn your quiet vintage store-perusing evening on its head like trying to walk upstream against a group of Tucsonans who are very done-up and very much in character.
An interest in having a walk was sparked about five years ago with a Zombie Prom of sorts held at Club Congress, but it wasn't until the following year that it actually turned into something that slightly resembles what it is now.
"The year after, it was not quite Halloween, but my brain is always in Halloween, (when) I was looking up stuff about zombies ... and I found out about the Zombie Walk," said Natalia Lopez, organizer of the first walk. "There is an actual Zombie Walk form online and they had a section for Arizona, and I put a post that said 'Does anyone want to start a zombie walk?' It was still kind of like a flash mob, but we organized in a way where we still had a costume contest."
The first walk included a competition with categories like Best Group, Funniest Zombie, Best Zombie Hunter and Best of Show, among others. It was followed by the walk and had a couple of complications. "It wasn't really organized, so we did have some problems. Trying to keep a whole bunch of people together is hard to do especially the way we did it. It was kind of flash mob style. So there really wasn't a lot of control," Lopez said. Since then they have included some security to help people follow the pedestrian rules, such as staying on the sidewalk and stopping for red lights.
Rosie Zwaduk joined Lopez in planning the event this year. With a common reverence for Halloween, the two make quite a team. Lopez said, "She is the heart and I guess I am the brains." To which Zwaduk grinned and responded, "Don't say that too loud. Can't talk about brains around zombies."
When Zwaduk got involved, the walk took on the extra role of providing food and funds for the Tucson Community Food Bank, making it a charity event that aided the living as well.
For Zombie Walk 2010, registration will start at 3 p.m. Participants have to either contribute an item of non-perishable food or make a monetary donation in order to be part of the walk, and are encouraged to dress up like a dead version of an actor or a character from a movie, as the theme is "Film Fiends." At 4 p.m., the undead have the opportunity to dance in "Thrill the World," a worldwide event in which individuals lurch to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" all at the same time. Zwaduk recommends checking YouTube tutorials if you want to be a part of it but don't know the moves. "A lot of people enjoyed it last year and asked if we were going to do it again; ... everyone who danced last year knew it," said Zwaduk.
The walk itself will creep down Fourth Avenue and turn around at Fourth Street, with the Best in Show winner (as determined by the costume contest) leading. On the way back, the group limps downtown toward Access Tucson. The culmination will be a War of the Worlds-style takeover with actors in the studio, and the station will actually go off air.
The event itself has grown into something with a large following. Lopez and Zwaduk are most surprised by the number of kids who come to the event dressed to the hilt.
"One thing that I remember the first year—I was at the Rialto and I was almost afraid that people wouldn't show up," Lopez said. "The first people who showed up were this mom and her three kids, ranging in age from five to 15. For the walk, I carry around a squirt bottle full of fake blood, and she was like 'Spray my kids down!' It was just awesome seeing this mom bringing her kids and really getting into it."