By Alexa Solis
It was a frigid October evening and thousands of zombies were crawling and causing chaos in downtown Reno. Hordes of the mangled undead blocked cars as they pursued not human flesh, but killer drink specials. It wasn’t the apocalypse, it was the seventh annual Reno Zombie Crawl.
The event has become one of the cornerstones of the Halloween season in downtown Reno, and has grown from a bar crawl that was started by a group of friends, to a multi-faceted affair involving thousands of people.
“I really just wanted to have a bar crawl with my friends,” said Ed Adkins, organizer of the Reno Zombie Crawl. “Then I saw that Halloween was on a Friday that year, so I thought Halloween was good, and people love zombies, so then I thought, ‘Zombie Crawl, perfect!’”
Adkins admits that he never expected what would happen next. A simple desire to have a fun night with friends became something much more.
“I put up some posters and posted on Twitter and Facebook, and a few hundred people showed up,” Adkins said. “That was great, and it just kind of grew exponentially from there. I never really thought that it’d do that.”
After six years of being successfully hosted by bars in downtown Reno, the crawl expanded into Midtown and Fourth Street. Adkins admits that it is not easy to widen the radius of an event that depends on people drinking and walking from bar to bar.
“Adding on areas is not as simple as calling up bars and seeing if they want to be a part of it, because we don’t want any big gaps in between areas, and we also don’t want to route people into areas that are undeveloped,” Adkins said. “In order [to move into new neighborhoods] we kind of changed how we do things.”
While the crawl is intended to be a party for participants, Adkins didn’t want to just give Reno locals something spirited to do during Halloween, he was also looking to improve revenue for local businesses.
“Three things we always try to do is are throw a kickass party, stretch people’s dollars and pump money into local businesses,” Adkins said. “I feel like we do a pretty good job with those three things.”
Local bar Five Star Saloon has been working with the crawl since its inception. Adkins noted that the bar owner, Shannon Dobbs, as being one of the event’s greatest supporters , and the bar itself benefits from the breadth of the event as well.
“What’s really nice is that, on an event like this, all the venues coordinate and participate,” said Michelle Peltier, general manager of Five Star Saloon. “It’s especially gratifying for us as a small business owner to have all the impact of all the media and marketing when everything comes together. Everyone really pulls together from Midtown, to downtown, [and] to the university.”
As the preparations for the crawl began, Junkee Clothing Exchange, a Midtown thrift store, was overrun by mobs of humans and zombies alike. An undead ballerina checked people out while groups gathered around the counter, asking how much it would cost to become zombified.
Hair stylists and makeup artists from Salon 7 worked feverishly to transform their customers into pallid, gash covered zombies. As stylist Meg Baker put the finishing touches on client Regan Dunlap, she laughed and joked about zombies and beauty. Dunlap jumped up and ran excitedly to put on her dress and the finishing touches of blood on her face and clothes.
“I love making people look really gory,” Baker said. “Most of the time, when you’re doing hair and makeup, you’re making people look beautiful. So, to do special effects, it’s a different skill that we get to hone.”
The salon has been working with Junkee Clothing Exchange for the last four years to create a place where people can get everything they need to be ready for the Reno Zombie Crawl.
“Our salon owners work with Jessica and Tanya [of Junkee Clothing Exchange] and we come down here every year from about 2 o’clock to the time they close, so they can get their costumes here and their makeup done here. So, it’s kind of an all-stop shop,” Baker said.
These businesses are deeply ingrained with what makes the Reno Zombie Crawl unique: The transformation from mere mortal to the monstrous undead.
“You don’t get anything more fun than themes and dressing up,” Peltier said. “With zombies, anything can be a costume, run over it with your car a time or two and it’s a costume. “
With the integration of all-ages events such as Thriller Under the Arch, the organizers of the event have been working to make the event more than just a time to drink.
“We could get the kids involved [with the crawl] and stuff because my daughter always wants to participate,” Adkins said. “We wanted to make it to where more people than just the crawlers could enjoy the concept of there being thousands of zombies downtown.”