ZombietownUSA enters third year
September 28, 2018
ZombietownUSA is an annual event in Altoona. Organized by Lori Rupert, Chris Peters and Milyssa Dalton, Zombietown is growing every year.
With the third year of Zombietown approaching, the organizers are doing everything they can to make this year memorable. Though, to make people remember Zombietown, first people have to know what it is.
“Zombietown is designed to be a weekend event that everyone can participate in and not just walk around looking at vendors. It’s more interactive; I tell everyone that it is basically the biggest Halloween party you’ve ever been to,” Peters said.
The creation of Zombietown was not an overnight idea. It did not come to fruition until many years after they first thought of the event. The idea first came to them while wandering around downtown with some friends that were new to the area.
“Originally, we’d been thinking about this since about 2011. Friends of ours were looking around downtown Altoona and back in 2011 half of downtown was boarded up buildings. We had our friends around, and we wanted to show them our offices in downtown. Our friends were like, ‘this looks like the perfect place for a zombie apocalypse,’ and everything was so boarded up and condemned that it did look like every zombie movie ever. It got us thinking we should do some zombie themed thing in the plaza,” Peters said.
Around the country, there were more zombie themed events. Peters and Rupert wanted their event to stand out from those events. They put their own twist on the other events.
“We realized there were others in the country, but they were different from ours. They were just the standard vendors, maybe a couple celebrities, and they would have maybe a band or something. You had to pay to get in, so we wanted to do something different. We didn’t like the idea of having to pay $25 or $30 a person to walk around looking at vendors, so we started working on this idea way back then,” Peters said.
They had been to other events where they weren’t impressed by what they had to show. They didn’t want anyone to feel that way about their event, so they did what they could to make Zombietown stand out.
“We went to Pittsburgh, and we were so disappointed thinking it was going to be something it wasn’t. We knew we could do something better,” Rupert said.
They wanted Zombietown to be something that the whole community could participate in and enjoy. They don’t want there to be any barriers for anyone, and want people of all incomes, backgrounds, races, religions, etc. to come and enjoy Zombietown.
“I love that it’s a family event. It’s not just designed for one group of people. It’s designed for everyone. We didn’t design it as a social experiment, but what’s awesome about Zombietown is that there are no barriers. There are doctors, there are people that don’t have jobs, there are lawyers, teachers, it doesn’t matter. Anyone who likes Halloween just wants to go and have a good time, understands it and gets it,” Peters said.
Zombietown has grown a lot since it’s first year, originally they had only hoped only a small hundred of people would show up. The first year they had been pleasantly surprised. Adding more with the second year the event continued to expand bring more people in.
“The very first year we were just hoping maybe a couple hundred people would come out and dress up, and even then it was way bigger than we expected. Going from the first year to the second year, we added in the Halloween parade, and we hoped that a couple hundred people would come out to the parade. We thought maybe we’d only have ten things for our first parade, but it ended up turning out awesome. The fire marshal and police chief estimated that about ten thousand people showed up. We weren’t expecting that, and it just keeps growing from year to year. Even this year, we’re trying to add more things to do compared to last year,” Peters said.
This year, they are trying to incorporate teenagers more than they had before. They added events like the Zombie Prom and more. Before they had more activities for adults and small children then they did for teenagers.
“I think that’s the biggest thing we worked on for this year. Especially last year, I saw we had a lot of stuff for little kids and in the evening it was more for adults with bands and music, but teenagers were kind of bored. This year we worked on that, and we have the haunted house, the laser battle that coming in, and twelve and up kind of activities for teenagers,” Rupert said.
They decided to amp up the activities this year adding things like escape rooms, a haunted house and more. This year they have two celebrities from the original Dawn of the Dead movie coming. The main goal is to really make sure the community has a good time, and they have some fun themselves.
“Friday we will have the Zombie Prom and the zombie run in the back, and we’ll have the car show going on. They’ll also have the Q94 truck there collecting food for the teen center. There will be a costume contest going on, and then the haunted tour of the railroaders museum will be on Friday and Saturday. Saturday we will have multiple activities going on like the hardcore mud run. We have lots of food vendors,” Dalton said.
This year will be the first “Zombie Prom,” and it will be on Friday, Oct. 5. Students who find that the Homecoming game is not quite their thing are more than welcome to join them from 6-9 in this twist on a classic dance. The Prom will be held at the Railroaders Museum, and all ages are encouraged to join in on the festivities. Anyone who dresses as a zombie will be permitted to get in for free. For anyone who doesn’t want to spend their night covered in blood, tickets are $5.
“We’ve been thinking about how to make Friday night stand out, and we also wanted to make sure it was connected to Zombietown so people know it’s the same thing and she came up with it. It’s a name we’ve been throwing around for a while, Zombie Prom, but finally just pulling it together and just doing a prom. We’re going to crown a king and queen and a prince and princess. There will be a costume contest, and it should be pretty fun,” Peters said.
Friday from 11:30 to 3:30, the they will be holding their “Blood Frenzy.” The Red Cross will be joining them to hold a blood drive at the Railroaders Museum. Donors will receive free admission to the museum on the fifth. Donors with types O, B negative or A negative blood are especially needed.
“I had the idea, and I so badly just wanted to do a blood drive and call it ‘blood frenzy,’” Rupert said.
Zombietown is holding a food drive for the teen shelter this year. They appreciate anything that is donated during the event.
“I know that the one thing we’re trying to promote is the food drive for the teen shelter. We’re doing it Friday and Saturday, and we’re asking people to bring a non perishable food item just so we can collect it for the food drive. We’re making the drop off point the Q94 truck that way it’s huge and everyone can see it,” Peters said.
For anyone looking to get involved, Zombietown is looking for volunteers, as a group or individual, to be zombies for some of the activities. Volunteers will receive complimentary food and drinks, and free passes to some of the activities during the event. To sign up, there is a form on the Zombietown website.
“If you want to sign up and need your makeup done, you can go to www.zombietownusa.com. For a lot of the activities you can show up and say you’d like to help out,” Dalton said.