If zombie movies have taught us anything, it's that the zombies always win.
So it's not surprising that the Zombie Pub Crawl has exploded, from a group of about 100 like-minded friends dressed as reanimated corpses in 2005 to what organizers estimated was about 30,000 bloodied participants last year.
"We're really lucky," said Taylor Carik, one of the five people behind the Zombie Pub Crawl, which celebrates its eighth year Saturday, Oct. 13. "It was the right time."
Indeed, when Carik and his pals started the crawl in 2005, the undead were in the midst of a cinematic revival, thanks to the acclaimed films "28 Days Later," "Shaun of the Dead" and the "Dawn of the Dead" remake. This year's event falls the night before the third-season premiere of "The Walking Dead," AMC's zombie drama that has become one of cable television's biggest hits.
The Zombie Pub Crawl, too, has blossomed from a mere pub crawl on the West Bank in Minneapolis into a dual-city invasion with nationally known bands like Exodus and the Gin Blossoms playing west of the Mississippi and DMX headlining Midway Stadium on the east side. And this year, the crawl has teamed up with Schell's Brewing to issue a limited-edition canned beer, Brain Belt Cranium.
Midway Stadium -- or Zombie Island -- will feature a carnival with free rides, fireworks, the world's largest inflatable zombie and an attempt to break the world record for the largest gathering of zombies.
"We try really hard to make it something that's unique," Carik said. "People think it's just about the zombie part or the crawl part, but we want to make it the most fun event you can go to."
After years based solely on the West Bank, the zombie invasion of St. Paul started in 2011, in part because Carik and his partners wanted to secure another city in case Minneapolis becomes unfriendly to the undead. Last year, the group experimented with Mears Park but inadvertently booked the event on the same day as the St. Paul
Art Crawl and the Minnesota Wild season opener.
"We thought about going back to Mears Park this year, but we needed a place that could hold more people and that was easier for us to manage," Carik said. On top of that, Carik said he hoped forging a working relationship with the St. Paul Saints could lead to the Zombie Pub Crawl returning to Lowertown once the new ballpark is built. Additionally, the Central Corridor light-rail line will make future zombie transportation from the West Bank to downtown St. Paul that much easier.
Shuffling zombies from one locale to the next is one of the priorities of the pub crawl. Organizers are selling wristbands, using the same RFID (radio frequency identification) chips as this summer's River's Edge Music Festival, that allow entrance to the crawl and free access to zombie shuttles running for 12 hours Saturday from the West Bank to Midway Stadium. There will also be free parking at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, with a shuttle service to the stadium.
Some longtime zombie crawlers cried foul when organizers started charging for the event a few years ago. This year, wristbands started at $6.66 for early birds, currently cost $22.99 and will increase to $40 at the gate. The money, Carik said, is used for event-related expenses, including booking the bands, hiring security, building stages, renting carnival rides and securing permits and insurance.
"The bottom line is that it takes five people a whole year to plan and execute
this thing," Carik said. "We're going to spend tens of thousands on Porta Potties alone. If we don't do that, there is no event. The bars wouldn't do it, the cities wouldn't let us do it."
The growth of the Zombie Pub Crawl has meant many things for Carik and his fellow organizers, most notably that they no longer can spend the entire evening covered in fake blood and gore themselves.
"We used to have really elaborate costumes, but last year, we didn't dress up at all until the very end," Carik said. "This year, we're just going to get custom athletic shoes because we run around so much. People spit blood on me all day anyway, so it's really the least of my worries."
Pop music critic Ross Raihala can be reached at 651-228-5553. Follow him at Twitter.com/Ross Raihala.
What: The eighth annual Zombie Pub Crawl
When: Saturday, Oct. 13
Hours: 2 p.m.-midnight (Midway Stadium, St. Paul) and 4 p.m.- 2 a.m. (West Bank, Minneapolis)
Live performance highlights: The Gin Blossoms (6 p.m.; Cabooze Plaza), DMX (9 p.m.; Midway Stadium), Exodus (10 p.m.; Triple Rock Social Club)
Tickets: $22.99 or $40 at the gate, available online and at Twin Cities Ragstock locations. Midway Stadium is all ages, all other venues are for those 21 and older.
See also: Several downtown St. Paul bars (including Station 4, the Gopher Bar, the Bulldog and Alary's) are also hosting a free zombie pub crawl Saturday. For more information, see Facebook.com/ZombiePubsCrawl Lowertown.
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