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Zombie Walk 4 is Infectious

Published: Friday, October 26, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 12:10

Zombie Stare

Mark Susan

Zombie Walk 4 princess Casey Boland gives us the dead eye.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, Shaun Hayes has a plan for survival.

First, he will seek shelter in a rural location, possibly a cabin or campsite. Then he will hunt down supplies including food, water and an arsenal of weapons.

“You have to be aware of your surroundings because there’s no safe place,” Hayes said. “You can be in one area for months and all the sudden you have to leave that area. You always have to be plotting your next place to go.”

As the head of the Department of Zombie Defense, it is Hayes’ responsibility to be prepared if ever carnivorous creatures should rise from the dead. The Department of Zombie Defense is an elite Phoenix organization dedicated to the preservation of life and the eradication of a zombie threat.

This Saturday Hayes and his cohorts will be corralling a horde of blood thirsty creatures at Zombie Walk 4 in downtown Phoenix.

Described by the organizers as an “undead haboob of 10,000 arm munchers,” Zombie Walk is a free, all-day Halloween festival that cumulates with a slow-paced shuffle through downtown Phoenix and across ASU. After the walk concludes, zombies, victims and bystanders return to Heritage Park for a festering festival of live music, beer, a costume contest, makeup vendors, a Carnage Carnival and more.

While the Department of Zombie Defense doesn’t face much of a threat on an ordinary day, its members take their job very seriously during the Zombie Walk, said R.J. Price, director of marketing for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, which organizes the walk.

“Their sole mission is to keep the zombie horde at bay,” Price said in a deadpan tone. “I say that with a straight face because they are very serious about it and they don’t break character. They scream, they yell, they have formations. It’s pretty intense.”

Those who own an original copy of “Dawn of the Dead” or “Night of the Living Dead” have worshiped everything zombie for years — but suddenly the undead is in style. The recent popularity has been fueled in part by movies and AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

Across the country annual zombie walks have been attracting thousands of gore lovers.

“I think gore and horror are trending upward,” said Price. “I also think show is like ‘The Walking Dead’ are hugely impactful on the popularity of zombies.”

Phoenix’s Zombie Walk began in 2008. Although just a few dozen people were expected, more than 200 attended the first festival. Last year, 4,500 zombies of all ages lumbered through Phoenix during the walk.

“It’s snowballed. We’ve doubled in size every year,” said Price. “It’s very, very organic and grassroots.”

Makeup artists will help patrons undergo a zombie makeover at the festival, transforming even the freshest face into a horrifying creature. A zombie makeup session is free with a food donation to St. Mary’s Food Bank.

“It’s a charitable event,” said Price. “We want to prove that zombies can be charitable too.”

Zombie Walk 4 is expected to attract a wide variety of patrons — from young to old and every level of fanatic in between.

 “We will have people who come down to be a spectator, which is encouraged,”said AnnaConsie, community editor for the Downtown Phoenix Partnership. “And we’ll get people who go all out […in] head-to-toe gore.”

A lot of the participants are people you normally wouldn’t expect.

With blond hair, bright green eyes and a soft-spoken voice, Casey Boland may not seem like a zombie enthusiast. But when it comes to gore, the 22-year-old ASU alumna says the bloodier the better.

“I think when most people meet me they’re pretty shocked that I’m into the zombie stuff,” said Boland, who also owns costume company Adore la Gore. “I love the element of Halloween and costumes.”

During the Zombie Walk, she will be dressed in a corset of flesh with blood and open wounds dripping from her arms and chest. As the festival’s zombie princess, she will also ride in a classic car that rocker Alice Cooper volunteered to provide for the event.

Although Boland says she adores horror, she’s not immune to a fright and says zombie movies still scare her.

“My favorite horror movie zombies are the ones that scare me the most,” she said. “That’s anything that zombie infected, not brought back from the dead. They’re more terrifying.”

So what attracts a seemingly normal person to be drawn into the world of zombies?

For Hayes, a 35-year-old Gilbert corrections officer, it’s the survival aspect of a zombie infestation that he finds intriguing.

“I think it’s a bit of the survival thing. It’s really cool to be that last person standing, or that last group of people on the planet. It’s almost like you have to start over,” said Hayes, who wrote a zombie book called “KE-12.” “It’s like what would you do if you weren’t working? What would you do if all you had to do is run around and scavenge stuff?”

On Saturday he will be dressed in a black SWAT outfit leveling a fake automatic rifle, and he has a message for anyone too frightened to attend the festival.  

“Do not fear the dead. Be alert, be aware, but don’t be afraid,” he said. “As long as you have the Department of Zombie Defense, you’re in good hands.”

Heritage & SciencePark, 115 N. Sixth Street, Phoenix, downtownphoenix.com/zombie, Saturday, October 27, 2 to 11 p.m., free

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