Participants with blood-smeared faces and torn clothing lumbered down Broad Street for several blocks before making a return trip, never once breaking character.
The horde, which was more tame than those seen in movies, had strict orders to stay on sidewalks during the march, avoid dripping fake blood along the path and to say only one word: Braaaaains.
“It’s like a second Halloween almost,” said Alicia Ortiz, whose face was painted pale except for the bits of liquid latex that resembled dried blood. She carried a demonic baby doll under her arm as she shuffled her way through her first Zombie Walk.
“I really wanted to go for a more child-looking zombie because you barely see those in zombie movies,” she said. “So, of course, what do you think of when you think of little girls? A little girl and her doll.”
This year’s walk was put on by Le Chat Noir, and Executive Director Krys Bailey said the turnout seems to increase each year.
Organizers expected more than 1,000 zombies to show up at the intersection of 8th and Reynolds streets for the start of the walk.
“The love of the genre is as undying as the zombie myth,” Bailey said. “It was vampires for a while, but zombies have come back. Zombies really never go away.”
Bailey said the event has gained popularity because it doesn’t require much to participate.
“Some folks show up with a ripped shirt and dark circles under their eyes, and some folks put on makeup for two or three hours,” he said. “It’s family friendly, so a lot of folks come out with their kids. They just shamble around downtown, and it’s kind of funny.”
Armed with tissue paper, liquid latex and gelatin, Crystal Wheeler and her team of four makeup artists toiled for hours under a tent near Le Chat Noir before the start of the walk, creating zombies of their own.
“We’ve had people all day long,” she said. “Some people even were told they weren’t allowed in a restaurant because they looked too real, so I must be doing good.”
Brandon Dawson, an improv actor playing the role of the undead deity Baron Samedi, met the horde at the Eighth Street
Bulkhead to give the undead their marching orders.
Dawson, who was taking part in his first Zombie Walk, said he couldn’t wait
to approach unsuspecting First Friday patrons.
“I’m excited to just see the expressions on everyone’s faces when we walk by,” he said.