If you notice a few thousand shuffling corpses making their way through downtown this weekend, don’t panic. The undead are just looking to have a good time and help out a good cause.
Saturday marks the fourth annual Des Moines Zombie Walk, benefiting Central Iowa Shelter and Services. Flesh-eating ghouls will gather at Zombie Burger, scarf down burgers (and possibly brains) and show their solidarity to a world that hates and fears them.
A friend of event founder Dallas J. Moore brought up the concept after a showing of the comedy “Zombieland.” Moore thought the concept sounded fun, and assembled the first Des Moines Zombie Walk in 2009. Around 75 zombies showed up to wander the streets of downtown.
“It seemed like a fun way to get some like-minded people together,” said Moore, 28. “I figured it would attract people who like the macabre, horror films, some metal fans. But it’s morphed into something you can take your kids to and support the community.”
In its third year, the Des Moines Zombie Walk drew in a herd of more than 750 zombies. This year Moore is anticipating at least 1,000, and possibly up to 2,200.
New this year is the zombie walk bizarre, featuring vendors set up outside Zombie Burger + Drink Lab on East Fourth Street between Des Moines Street and East Grand Avenue. It will include zombie merchandise, clothing and more, and you can get made up for the zombie walk for $10 (in case you aren’t really a zombie).
But a good zombie apocalypse isn’t just about the undead; it means nothing without survivors. Those who don’t wish to don makeup can create signs and protest the social acceptance of zombies (“U R Dead 2 Me,” “Go Back to the Grave”) or join the central Iowa anti-zombie militia, which is dedicated to wiping out the zombie menace. Well, as much as you can wipe out a menace with Nerf weapons.
“The first year I went I was joking around, wondering when the officials were going to do something about all these zombies walking around,” said Troy Errthum, 39, founder of the CIAZM. “My kids and I got maybe 10 people together to go shoot zombies.”
The first year that the militia was in action it was a complete ambush. The nearly done zombie walkers had mostly abandoned their act, but after a few well-placed blasts several hundred zombies were quickly back in character.
“I tell the kids, ‘I know head shots kill zombies, but aim for the belly,’” Errthum said. “In the end, it’s really (the zombies’) day. I always anticipate we will lose and be driven back.”
Moore agrees that the anti-zombie crowd has added a new level to the Des Moines Zombie Walk.
“It makes it so much more interesting, to see 700 zombies walking down the street and then see people on the side of the road in chemical suits with signs that say ‘Zombies Don’t Have Rights,’”Moore said. “For the people looking on, it must look like insanity.”
The zombie walk isn’t the only zombie-themed activity of the day. Sleepy Hollow Sports Park hosts the Run of the Living Dead on Saturday as well. It’s a 5K race, but while other Sleepy Hollow races have featured obstacles like water, mud and fire, this one will have zombies clawing after the brains of runners.
People can sign up as zombies or as runners. Runners get flag football belts and have to work their way through crowds of monsters while the zombies snatch at the flags. The winner isn’t determined by the fastest time alone, but also by who has the most flags left.
The Run of the Living Dead zombies are supposed to be the traditional slow zombies, but Sleepy Hollow general manager Max Kenkel said some zombies might get a little overzealous in their pursuit.
Kenkel said the Run of the Living Dead and the Des Moines Zombie Walk happening on the same weekend is just happenstance, but that it does provide some crossover opportunities between the two.
“We’re talking about opening up some earlier heats in the day, for people who want to do both,” Kenkel said. “I think the zombie walk is awesome, and if people are getting dressed up anyway they might as well get the most out of their costume.”
Des Moines Zombie Walk
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday (walk starts at 5:30 p.m.)
Where: Zombie Burger, 300 E. Grand Ave.
Cost: $5 to walk, $25 for a zombie roamer kit (T-shirt, wristband, tote bag), $35 zombie horde pack (T-shirt, wristband, tote bag, after-party ticket and drink ticket)
Sub Sonic Social After Party
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: People’s, 216 Court Ave.
Cost: $5 before 10 p.m., $10 after
Run of the Living Dead 5K
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, 4051 Dean Ave.
Cost: $55 for the run (includes Scream Park ticket), $30 for the one-mile kids’ run, $15 as a zombie (no Scream Park ticket), $30 as a zombie with a Scream Park Pick 3 ticket.
“The Walking Dead” watch parties
AMC’s zombie TV show, “The Walking Dead,” returns for its third season Sunday at 9 p.m. If you’re too scared to watch it alone there are several options for enjoying it in a relatively well-lit place, surrounded by people. The following bars will show “The Walking Dead” each week.
Zombie Burger, 300 E. Grand Ave.
Lime Lounge, 435 E. Grand Ave.
The Fremont, 1030 E. Ninth St.
Lolly’s Pre-Halloween Zombie Bash
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: House of Bricks, 525 E. Grand Ave.
Info: Stand-up comedy, music by Violent Fade, zombie karaoke, zombie cupcakes by Whipped Cream, zombie costume contest, zombie Jello shots