Sunday, October 23, 2016

how zombies saved Halloween.

As I approached the Halloween of my seventh grade year, my parents delivered the devastating news that I was henceforth too old to go trick-or-treating.

I was crushed.

Halloween has been my favorite holiday ever since I was old enough to know what it meant to have a favorite holiday.
I would take Halloween over my birthday and Christmas, hands down. I loved (and still love) nothing more than to put on a costume (elaborate or otherwise) each year and have one night to be someone/thing else. I couldn't imagine EVER being too old for that.

When I was informed that I had aged out of trick-or-treating, I began plotting a work-around. My parents suggested that I stay home and hand out candy, but I was having none of that.

Besides, we only got the smallest handful of trick-or-treaters... there was no need whatsoever to have a person there to do the handing. My fellow rural South Dakotans simply left a giant bowl of candy on the steps with a sign saying "help yourself." As I have professed before, trick-or-treating in the country is the BEST.

Since handing out candy was out, I did what any Halloween-deprived conniving twelve-year-old would do:

I called up my town-dwelling friend Allison, and we went trick-or-treating on foot in Arlington.

I may have been too old to have my mom haul me around in a minivan to go trick-or-treating in the country, but there was no way I was giving up Halloween just yet.

Honestly, I went trick-or-treating much longer than I should have. There is definitely a "too old" threshold, and I passed it... and ignored it. In my defense, in my last few years of high school trick-or-treating, my friends and I only went to our teachers' houses - which sounds weird, but I really think they got a kick out of us.
Especially the time we dressed up in our band uniforms and went to our band director's house.
The last time I went trick-or-treating was during my freshman year in college. WAY too old, I know. But in my defense, the only real Halloween alternative to trick-or-treating was underage drinking. It was barely two months into my college experience, and I was still an eighteen-year-old uncorrupted goody-two-shoes, so I went trick-or-treating.

For some, high school is when Halloween morphs from cute costumes and candy into slutty costumes and booze. Others wait until college for this particular transformation.

It still hasn’t happened for me.

Halloween to me has never been a time to go out and get drunk, and it never will be. (I’m 29, for crying out loud: if it was going to happen, it would’ve happened.) Halloween means dressing up in something awesome (NEVER SLUTTY), eating candy (even if it’s candy you yourself purchased), and doing fun Halloween stuff.

As a childless adult, this is much more challenging than one would think. I am fortunate enough to work in a place that allows me to dress up, and candy is easy to come by… but Halloween stuff? It’s all aimed either at children or drunk twentysomethings. Don't get me wrong: I am totally a-ok with a drink or two. But I have long aged out of drinking for the sake of drinking, and that's what Halloween skews towards.

Sure, there are a couple of adulty non-drunk things one can do… the midnight showing of Rocky Horror comes to mind, and there is a haunted Sioux Falls tour that I’ve NEVER been able to get tickets to… but on the whole, pickings are slim.

Until the zombies.

Zombies have been having a moment for quite some time now, and I am SO GRATEFUL. Zombies have saved Halloween for people like me.

My first ever zombie event occurred just at the beginning of the zombie revolution. It was 2006 and my sophomore year in college. The U of M Morris announced it would be hosting a zombie prom, and HELL YES I was going. My friend Sara and I went to the Salvation Army for our outfits and Pamida for our makeup, and we looked ridiculous. It was a great time - the food service building had been transformed into part graveyard/part dance floor, and "Thriller" was on a never-ending loop. What a great and ridiculous entry point to my zombie life.
And you know what? I think UMM has had Zombie Prom every year since.

As an adult (and since I graduate from UMM - gulp - more than seven years ago), I'm pretty sure I'm no longer invited to Zombie Prom. (Though a quick Google search informs me that Chicago has a huge Zombie Prom. Next year??) However, there are two major zombie events I do attend each Halloween: the Zombie Pub Crawl in Minneapolis, and the Zombie Walk in Sioux Falls.

Let’s start with the pub crawl.
First of all, it is indeed a pub crawl, and I KNOW I was just griping that Halloween events cater to drunk adults. Indeed, this is true of the Zombie Pub Crawl: it is primarily a means for people to drink. However, it is not just that: there is a zombie costume contest, and there are food trucks. There are concerts, and someone is always doing the “Thriller” dance. I personally LOVE that there are thousands of people in one spot, and each and every one of them is dressed like a zombie.

But the real star of the show is the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk.

I have lived in the Sioux Falls area for five years now, and I’ve participated in the Sioux Falls Zombie Walk for three years. (Soon to be four, as the walk is coming up on the 29th.) I didn’t know about it during my first year (as I had just moved here at the beginning of October and was likely too poor to buy zombie makeup), but I’ve been a faithful zombie ever since.

The Zombie Walk is a full-on zombie parade, and the costumes are some of the most intricate I’ve ever seen in my life. You can pay a few bucks to have a professional do your makeup for you, and you can get hosed down with fake blood at the “blood station” (you should see the sidewalk when they’re through). I have seen dogs dressed as zombies, and I have seen tiny babies dressed as zombies. I have seen astoundingly delightful theme zombies - zombie Marty McFly being my favorite to date. At the parade itself, there are zombie floats and everything. The entire zombie horde goes shambling down the street, and people line the sidewalks to watch. It's downright magical in an eat-your-brains kind of way.

This year's Zombie Walk promises to be the biggest and best so far. I've heard that there's going to be a regular Halloween parade before the zombies - something less gruesome for the squeamish among us. Then, all zombies are invited to the Icon in Sioux Falls - something I'm pretty thrilled about, as there has not been an organized zombie event after the parade. In previous years, the zombies would just disperse - and anyone in zombie makeup heading to a downtown restaurant after the parade would get some weird looks (Mitch, James, and I were all but shamed out of Bros one year).
We looked like this.

I love the Zombie Walk because it is one of those rare events that bills itself "for all ages" and actually is. If you go to the Zombie Walk, you'll find all ages: remember the babies dressed as zombies? And the point - unlike a lot of adult-ish Halloween events - is NOT to get drunk. It's to dress up like a zombie and be a part of a zombie community and march in a parade while doing your best to look like you want to eat brains. It is exactly my kind of thing.

So I just want to say thank you. Thank you to the zombies of America for saving Halloween. Thank you for creating something to do for Halloween that doesn't require small children or copious amounts of alcohol. I love you, zombies, and I can't wait to eat brains with you at the Zombie Walk.

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