It's almost time for the dead to rise... and congregate on Bardstown Road!
Every year at 8:29 p.m. on August 29, zombies invade Bardstown Road between Eastern Parkway and Bearno's in the Highlands. People spice it up with themes for their zombie costumes including brides, hello kitty, Adam and Eve, and I even saw Darth Vader once (Not a zombie. Just Darth Vader??). The zombie walk trend is not unique to Louisville: it occurs all over the world. Louisville has one of the largest events in the United States according to recorded statistics.
Louisville Zombie Attack began as a birthday celebration for three friends who share birthdays with the king of pop, Michael Jackson. Word of mouth spread, and it grew to the large event that it is today. An estimated 5,000 zombies, survivalists and victims converged on the Highlands last year, resembling an undead mardi gras. Although there was a permit in place to close the street, the amount of people left some business
owners, the police department and others worried about safety issues and upset about vandalism.
Louisville Zombie Attack 2010:
This year: it's taken a lot of work and effort from some key people to make it happen - or rather, to make it happen safely with a street closure permit. These people really deserve a
round of applause from the legions of undead fans. Richard Teachout of Zombie City (an attraction at Asylum Haunted Scream Park), George Timmering, Owner of Bearno's, his manager Charlie Cronin, and Jon King (one of the friends who started the tradition) have been working for months to take necessary precautions to keep the zombie walk alive legally and safely.
After months of negotiations, the city settled on the following requirements (according to Cronin):
8 off duty cops would need to be paid to be at the event - 4 of which will be used to direct traffic,
In order to close the street, signatures would be needed from 75% of the business owners on the block.
Event insurance is necessary.
The street, surrounding areas, and businesses would need to be pressure washed after the event.
The amount of money needed to meet these requirements easily added up to over four thousand dollars and there was some initial concern as to how they would be met. The zombie walk has always been more of a tradition than an organized event, and none of the individuals could fork over that much money. Some people have commented on their belief that the city should help supply security because it is a large event that brings people in from out of state to visit Louisville.
Teachout stepped up with sponsorship money to help cover some of the police and offered to provide the pressure washing. Helping the zombie attack seems like a smart business move for Teachout since he owns a haunted scream park that includes a zombie hunting paintball shooting gallery, but he also did it because he enjoys the zombie walk.
"We're big believers of zombie walk," he said."I met my best friend there."
Although King acquired a permit last year to close the street and there were four off duty cops in attendance, there was no one directing traffic, so people would run out into the street outside the street closure area with undead abandon, walking like zombies and even touching passing cars, which left some dried blood on them. It also made it hard for an emergency vehicle to make it through the crowds.
"By having the street closure and traffic direction, it's somewhat contained," continued Teachout. "Without it, we're worried about zombies bothering people who aren't a part of the walk and people who aren't a part of it bothering the zombies."
"People just assume that cars will stop for them because there are so many of them [people]," said Cronin. "Most of the concerns last year arose from dried blood."
Here's an idea of what the attack was like before street closures - watch starting at about 48 seconds in for a bit of clothes ripping chaos- man with clothes ripped off was a willing "victim" participant (broken up by aforementioned Darth Vader):
One business on the block in particular was upset last year and tried to find someone in charge to take responsibility for damaged property. She eventually filed a claim with her own insurance.
"I own two buildings on the block, said Fran Jasper. "We have a planter made of bricks, and when we came in the next morning, bricks were all over the sidewalk as if they took a hammer to it, and some of them had taken down their pants and put bloody [butt] prints on my storefront windows. There were also beer and liquor bottles all over the property."
She went on to say that she is all for fun and is not totally against the walk; she is just concerned about more damage to her property. She may hire her own security gaurd to keep people away from her building but thinks it is a little unfair that she would have to pay for that.
"They had cops last year and it did not seem to keep people away from the buildings. Steve Clements (owner of Avalon) shuts his restaurant down due to lack of parking and hires his own
guard to watch over his building. I want people to have fun but I want them to respect my property."
I was unable to reach Mr. Clements for comment. Despite these concerns, Cronin was able to obtain enough signatures from other business owners to get the street closure permit for this year's event. With a crowd of 5,000 unorganized people last year, it seems like the damage was minimal.
"We all know that -permit or not- the event will happen- people will just show up," said Cronin. "We want to do our part to limit the liability. By getting the street closure, we are trying to change it from a zombie walk to more of a zombie block party and contain it somewhat. Some will still walk, but the goal is that we're trying to take the walk part out of it because that's the dangerous part. We want to make it as safe as possible."
"There's a lot more organization this year with traffic flow, people flow, and sound control," said Teachout, who is providing the crew who will be pressure washing. "Of course, there will be some blood dripping off of people, so we want to go the extra mile with clean up."
Thriller Dance performed at Louisville Zombie Attack 2009:
Although the originators of the walk never intended> for it to grow to such large numbers or foresaw the need for massive amounts of planning, circumstances have begun to require it.
"With added planning and organization time, we think it will get better each year," concluded Teachout. "It's a great fun thing to get people together and keep Louisville weird - we're all about having fun."
As a result of planning and organization, here are some suggestions for the Zombie Walk. It is encouraged that participants show respect and gratitude to those that put in the hard work to keep it alive by taking these guidelines into serious consideration:
Instead of walking from the corner of Eastern Parkway, zombies are encouraged to gather within the street closure area. Bardstown Road will be closed between Rosewood and Cherokee Parkway.
Please keep the party in the closed off area.
Follow the traffic directions. Do not attack people's cars, buildings or the living people outside the closed off area.
Respect people's properties! It only takes a few people to ruin an awesome event for everyone.
Use trash cans. Do not litter the street and properties with beer/liquor bottles.
Share these guidelines with everyone, so the Zombie Attack can continue to have a good working relationship with the city.
My own personal suggestion: Keep the babies at home! If your kids are zombie fans and you want to bring them, be aware that some adult situations and costumes are sometimes present. I understand there are young horror fans, however, last year I was concerned to see people with newborns and babies in strollers amidst mardi gras type chaos. If there had been a stampede of any sort, it would have been tragic. Cigarette smoke, ashes and butts being flicked, lots of alcohol, not to mention horrific make up and thousands of people contained within a relatively small enclosed area - this is not a place for tender and vulnerable babies.
If you bring children, perhaps a designated meet up place should be set in case you get separated (which happens - and I can't imagine anything more terrifying for a child than to be lost in a sea of zombies and monsters). There is no central desk to help find children. Instructing children to meet you at a specific location if they are separated will help resolve panic and problems in locating them.
Here's an idea of the crowd within the street closure to give you an idea of why it's important to keep kids close and have a meet up plan:
This year's schedule of events:
(**denotes official part of Louisvile Zombie Attack)
** Sunday, August 28 -
8 p.m. Zombie movie night at Bearno's - Viewing of Night of the Living Dead with live soundtrack by local band OK Zombie - free - all ages
Monday, August 29
WHAS will feature zombies during televised morning show.
3 p.m. - 8 p.m. Make up done by Fx artists - I will be with several other artists at Role of the Die on Bonnycastle across from 360 Cafe from 3 p.m. - 8 p.m. Cost for make up is $10 - $20 depending on level of degradation and includes supplies.
** 8:29 - Walk from Cherokee Parkway or Rosewood towards Bearno's - Party with following entertainment: Va Va Vixens, Terpiscore, OK Zombie, The Zombieland Marching band, and costume contests for Hot Zombie, Gross Zombie, King & Queen Zombie, Golden Machete.(Prizes supplied by Evil Dead: The Musical at Alley Theater, Asylum Haunts, Golden Lotus Tattoos, Ratterman Funeral Home and others) Free - All ages.
2010 After party with Va Va Vixens and OK Zombie:
If you just can't get enough of the undead, here are some other zombie events to look for in Louisville throughout the year:
Zombie City, a haunted attraction which is part of the Asylum Haunted Scream Park, is located at 3101 Pond Station Rd. 40207 - www.asylumhaunts.com - season - open september 23 through the end of October - every Friday and Saturday night. There is also a zombie hunting paintball shooting gallery. More information at www.AsylumHaunts.com
Thriller Flash Bang - On October 29, 2011 - Dance instructor Clay Marshall is hosting the Louisville area Thriller Flash bang with the goal of joinging people around the world in breaking the record for largest synchronised perfromance of the Thriller dance by Michael Jackson. Rehearsals begin September 4. More info can be found on the web site.
Festival of Fantasy, Dance on the Darkside On October 29, 2011 throughout day and night -will include lots of horror-ific entertainment including excerpts from my Doomsday Lover show - think dancing zombies and glitter. Proceeds benefit Pagan Community Ministries - More information and tickets available at their web site.
Photo at top of article: Richard Teachout with wife Janel Nash at Zombie Walk 2010 - photo is cropped from original photo by Marty Pearl, supplied by Teachout.
About Jessica Lynn
Jessica Lynn has been writing for Louisville.com since fall of 2010 and has also been published in LEO, Velocity, Voice-Tribune and others after serving as Editor in Chief of The JCC student newspaper, The Quadrangle. She has also served as columnist or contributing writer to an array of online publications. More articles from Jessica Lynn