Over a thousand of the living dead will walk the streets of Broad Ripple Saturday, as participants in the eight annual Broad Ripple Zombie Walk, the largest event of its kind in the state. Each year, the number of "walkers" grows, and the costuming and makeup gets more ambitious. Playing dead seems to be contagious.
It all started eight years ago when local chef Robert "Kam" Brady and a few of his friends put together a smaller version of zombie walks they had seen in other cities.
"We printed a hundred flyers to pass out and maybe 50 people showed," Brady said. "It was more like a flash mob event. There wasn't a route to follow or any accompanying events planned. We just walked up and down the streets with fake blood all over us."
As the walk entered its third season, IndyMojo stepped in. The networking/programming outfit took a more serious approach to promotion, creating a website and reaching out to local businesses. IndyMojo's Jason King calls the walk's growth spurts at times "uncomfortable."
"We never know what to expect," he said. "In the first year we got involved, we had a few hundred zombies show up. The next year it was 500. The last few years, it's jumped to well over a thousand."
Take away the zombie makeup and the walk remains a charity event to collect canned goods for Gleaners Food Bank. Last year, over 5,400 pounds of canned food were donated to help needy families.
"The first few years we put a couple of barrels out to collect the cans," said King. "Now we back a Gleaners semi-trailer into the Kroger's lot, and every year we fill it."
Several Broad Ripple businesses have joined the party. The Vogue's Zombie Prom, held later in the evening, is designed for the over-21 "party zombie" crowd. Others, like Hot Box Pizza, donate a percentage of sales from zombie night to Gleaners.
Most walkers arrive already made up and in costume, and some take it quite seriously. Many bring their own blood. In cans, in bottles — or in Brady's case, a pesticide spray tank.