Phoenix's Zombie Walk Canceled — But Don't Expect It to Stay Dead Forever

The Gravedigger and a couple of his minions at the Zombie Walk 2014.EXPAND
The Gravedigger and a couple of his minions at the Zombie Walk 2014.
Ben Garcia

Downtown Phoenix’s annual Zombie Walk has apparently been laid to the grave — or at least it seems that way.

Organizers of the family-friendly Halloween season event, which involves thousands of Valley residents dressing as zombies and stumbling through downtown every October, recently announced its cancellation. And it’s not due to a lack of interest, mind you, but rather the overwhelming popularity of the walk, which has reportedly gotten way too big for organizers to handle.

Downtown Phoenix Inc., the nonprofit community development organization that has put on the Zombie Walk for the last seven years, posted a cancellation announcement on its website on Sunday, May 22, claiming that it lacks the staff, budget, and resources to put on the event due to its enormous size.

In recent years, more than 20,000 people have participated in the 1.5-mile walk each time it's taken place and have attended the daylong block party at Heritage Square Park that’s connected with the event. It’s a far cry from the 200 people who showed up for the inaugural Zombie Walk in 2009 and, according to the announcement, it’s growth proved to be too much for the organization to handle.

A horde of the undead at the Zombie Walk in 2014.EXPAND
A horde of the undead at the Zombie Walk in 2014.
Ben Garcia

“With just two full-time event staff at Downtown Phoenix Inc., growing production costs and nearly breaching capacity at Heritage and Science Park last year (that’s a lot of zombies!) — unfortunately we are no longer able to plan, manage, and maintain this event in all its gory, er, glory,” the announcement stated. “Zombie Walk started as a free, fun, family-friendly event and we wanted to keep it that way — but that’s no easy feat.”

(A smaller version of the event that took place during the Friday of Phoenix Comicon each year has also reportedly been nixed and replaced with a Star Wars-themed “Saber Walk.”)

Downtown Phoenix Inc. reportedly attempted to relocate the event to a bigger setting or scare up enough money to keep the event going. (According to media reports, the event cost more than $50,000 to produce.)

It didn’t work out, and they ultimately decided to cancel.

“Our attempts to move Zombie Walk to a larger venue and allocate enough funding and personnel to fully support this larger-than-life festival simply fell short,” the announcement stated. “With less than six months until October, we made the decision to let the event die peacefully on a high note.”

All that said, however, we fully expect the Zombie Walk to be revived. Just like a few brain-eaters in some zombie flicks that are too tough to kill, however, we think the event won’t stay dead for long.

Given the sheer size of the crowds each year, as well as the continued popularity of zombies (wavering ratings for Fear the Walking Dead aside), it’s a safe bet that either the walk will be reanimated by another organization or a similar event will be launched to fill the vacuum.

Participants of the Zombie Walk in 2015.EXPAND
Participants of the Zombie Walk in 2015.
Benjamin Leatherman

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We’ve also heard a rumor or two since DTPHX’s cancellation announcement that there are some groups and entities interested in reviving the Zombie Walk in some fashion, either as its own event or part of an existing Halloween extravaganza.

Local artist and horror fan Victor Moreno, who has participated in previous Zombie Walks, believes it will live again.

“I think it's possible,” he says. “I know there was a competing [zombie walk] up until a couple of years ago, and there's definitely as much interest in participating in these walks as there ever was.”

In fact, he says, it’s only a matter of time before zombie lookalikes stagger through the streets of Phoenix during the Halloween season.

“I think it’s just like zombies,” Moreno says. “It may be dead for now, but it'll come back sooner or later.”

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