The undead are bringing life to downtown Toledo this weekend, along with some serious bar tabs.
Drawing thousands of elaborately costumed ghouls to the UpTown District along Adams Street, the Zombie Crawl has quickly become the biggest Halloween party in town.
“Every year is a [bar] sales record and by a long shot too,” said Zach Lahey, owner of Manhattan’s Restaurant, 1516 Adams St., one of several UpTown bars and restaurants to participate in the annual event since its 2010 inception. “We’ve had New Year’s Eve nights that are tremendous and we’ve shut down the whole place for a wedding. That’s great. But [the Zombie Crawl] sets the bar for sales.”
Now in its fourth year, Friday’s Zombie Crawl is expected to draw more than 3,000 walking dead, as the creepers shuffle across five blocks on Adams Street from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. in search of beer and brains.
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Participating venues include Manhattan’s; Wesley’s Bar & Grill, 1201 Adams St.; The Attic on Adams, 1701 Adams St.; The Truth Art Gallery and Event Center, 1811 Adams Street;The Ottawa Tavern, 1817 Adams St.; and Bretz Bar, 2012 Adams St.; as well as outdoor beer gardens, food trucks, and other vendors.
The event is the brainchild of Ryan Bunch and Adam Sattler. Bunch is the Performing and Literary Arts Commissioner for the Toledo Art Commission while Sattler is the manager of the Ottawa Tavern.
It came about as the friends discussed ways to promote the UpTown district and the arts and entertainment along Adams Street.
“We noticed other cities had done Zombie Crawls and we basically said, why can’t we do one here?” Bunch said. “We put up a Facebook invite and 700 people showed up that first year,” or about 500 more zombies than expected.
The zombie apocalypse was an immediate success, and as it has grown has earned a reputation as a Halloween hot spot, attracting people from Detroit and Cleveland, which have zombie crawls of their own.
“They say [Toledo’s zombie crawl] is way better than their cities’,” Bunch said proudly, “which is pretty cool. We’re building a regional brand.”
The Zombie Crawl rules are simple. You must be 21 or older. And you must have a zombie, or zombie-related, costume.
For some participants this means the classic look with white makeup and faux blood while others take the concept and their costumes considerably further.
Past Zombie Crawls have featured everything from zombie Elvis and the zombie cast of Anchorman to zombie tooth fairy and zombie Batman. There are also those who come as still-living zombie killers.
“It’s just amazing to see the variety of costumes and creativity that people put into it,” Bunch said.
The key to any zombie look is blood, and lots of it, he said, “especially pouring out of the mouth. Another key component with the costumes is to stumble around and mumble ‘brains’ for a good portion of the night.”
The Zombie Crawl is in some ways a grand cosplay event, as staying in character as an animated rotting corpse is part of the challenge and fun of the event. This has led to interesting reactions by those not in on the joke.
“We were walking past Manhattan’s that first year and a couple of nice older ladies sitting in the window having dinner had this terrified look on their faces as they saw a couple hundred people beating on the window with blood on their faces,” Bunch said. “They looked appalled and terrified, and then inevitably amazed and then they started laughing.”
The crawl has stirred similar reactions of concern since, Lahey said, especially when random zombies show up at Manhattan’s for a pre-event dinner.
“[Restaurant patrons] look up and say, ‘What’s going on over there? Is that guy OK? Does he need help? Then there is that look of amusement that comes over their face when the [Zombie Crawl] is starting.”
Sattler and Bunch said the event’s success is part of the ongoing zombie craze, which includes the acclaimed AMC drama The Walking Dead and this summer’s popcorn thriller World War Z.
“I think that really helped kick it off and get it started,” Sattler said. “I also don’t think Toledo had a big Halloween party.”
The Zombie Crawl officially begins at 8:30 p.m. at Wesley’s Bar & Grill, 1201 Adams St., and then slowly creeps to Manhattan’s at 10. That’s the extent of event coordination for the evening, as zombies drink, dance, and dine at their leisure.
“It’s kind of chaos from there on out,” Bunch said.
Sponsored by the UpTown Association, this year’s Zombie Crawl will include a Zombie Family Portrait booth, set up at the corner of 15th and Adams streets near Manhattan’s, and candid zombie party shots at The Attic on Adams. Toledo School for the Arts students also will have four makeup stations from 7 to 10 p.m. on Adams Street at the corner of 14th Street to help zombies with their costumes. The cost is a suggested donation to the school.
And for those wanting pre and post-zombie fun, The Toledo Club, 235 14th Street, is hosting its open-to-the-public annual Halloween party at 8 p.m, while Glass City Cafe, 1107 Jackson St., will be open from midnight to 5 a.m. for late-night breakfast and zombie-themed specials.
For more information, check out the Zombie Crawl invitation on Facebook, on.fb.me/1beFkrN.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.