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Zombies take over Lakewood for bi-annual Cleveland Charity Zombie Walk

Adam Wisniewski

Issue date: 9/25/09 Section: Focus
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[Click to enlarge]
Hundreds of zombified citizens trudged down Detroit Avenue, having just donated canned goods to Harvest for Hunger, and gotten ready to harvest organs for their own hunger.
Hundreds of zombified citizens trudged down Detroit Avenue, having just donated canned goods to Harvest for Hunger, and gotten ready to harvest organs for their own hunger.
[Click to enlarge]
The west side of Cleveland was overrun by a horde of zombies Saturday afternoon as Lakewood's 5 O'Clock Lounge hosted the fourth Cleveland Charity Zombie Walk, an event where hundreds of people of all ages are transformed into the undead and march around the neighborhood in the interest of feeding the hungry.

Dozens of corpses were sighted hanging around the entrance to the venue on Detroit Avenue during the hour leading up to the event. The interior was packed with blood-soaked patrons taking advantage of the bar's zombie specials and enjoying the live tunes of 50s-style rock 'n' roll duo Buzz Deluxe. Participants lined up to register at a small table in the bar. After making a donation of five dollars and at least two cans of food, they were then given a ticket to go out to the venue's backyard and have makeup applied. The majority of the action was concentrated out back, where dozens of eager mortals were being converted into zombies by a crack team of professional airbrush and makeup artists, and those who had already changed partied hard.

Mastermind Joe Ostrica, of local B-movie production group Old School Sinema, explained that although he was not the first to devise such a perplexing philanthropic event, it was his idea to organize it in Cleveland. Strange as it may be, the event is quite effective - last year 700 pounds of canned food were donated and delivered to the Cleveland Foodbank's Harvest for Hunger program, from over 400 participants. Ostrica explained that the event is held twice a year, in April and September, during the day, so people of all ages can safely participate. Previously, it was held in November in order to capitalize on the post-Halloween buzz, but attendance suffered due to poor weather. Ostrica noted that the change to September caused attendance to triple. The event has even attracted relatively high-profile names, such as 72-year-old Bill Hinzman, an actor from the original film Night of the Living Dead.

The event began when one of the organizers stood on a table and ordered all zombies out to the parking lot for group photos. Zombies of all shapes and flavors were present: mohawked punk zombies, military zombies stuck with bayonets, pirate zombies waving the skull and crossbones, swanky business executive zombies, and even hooded little children paying tribute to the hunters from popular zombie videogame Left 4 Dead were all present and ready to stagger. A collective and obligatory exclamation of "brains" was muttered by the horde as pictures were taken, and the enthusiastic crowd did well to ham it up for the cameras.

"Don't get arrested, that wouldn't be cool; don't touch civilians or private property," announced one of the organizers as she formally began the Walk.

The zombie horde, largely in character, began to shuffle down Detroit Avenue, and entered the otherwise quiet neighborhood on Fry Street. The residents of Fry Street welcomed the zombies from their porches and balconies, while a confused postman delivered the mail, stopped by neither rain, nor sleet, nor zombie horde. "Mail!" moaned some of the horde as they took notice of the mailman on his delivery route. "What is this?" asked a little girl, as confused as the mailman or any other uninformed passerby.

Some residents aimed to capitalize on the march by setting up a "Blood Aid" stand in their front yard, hoping that thirsty zombies would drop a quarter for some refreshment. The horde then reached Clifton Avenue, where they terrorized a confused civilian waiting for the RTA in a bus stop by swarming it around and smacking the glass barrier. They passed through a Shell gas station parking lot as they turned down the busy West 117th Avenue, attracting the attention of drivers in cars who stopped in the middle of the street to snap pictures from their cell phones. Restaurant employees and supermarket customers came out of their respective buildings to watch in wonder as hundreds of zombies staggered down the road. Upon reaching a set of train tracks, one of the participants spoke of the previous event saying, "Shoulda seen this guy last year, he was so drunk walkin' with his arms out toward the tracks, we thought he was gonna kiss the train!" "Trains!" responded another zombie, remaining in character. The horde arrived once again at Detroit Avenue where they continued the walk a short distance to the 5 O'Clock Lounge, attracting a comparable amount of attention as they did on the other parts of their route.

At this point, the walk ended and the younger members of the crowd dispersed, while those of age returned to the bar for more drinks and live music. For a relatively little known and admittedly somewhat baffling charity event, it was safe and enjoyable for zombies of all ages, and it does quite well to benefit the needy. It could only improve from an even larger horde as enthusiastic as this year's. Speaking of the proper way to perform the Zombie Walk, a serious participant explained that "if you do it right, you're sore by the end of it."
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Worst Case Scenario

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