Phoenix's Zombie Walk Is Coming Back from the Dead

You'll be seeing zombies like these stumbling around Phoenix's downtown warehouse district in late October.
You'll be seeing zombies like these stumbling around Phoenix's downtown warehouse district in late October.
Ben Garcia

It turns out that Phoenix’s Zombie Walk isn’t dead after all. In fact, just like the brain-eating hordes that inspire the annual event, it's about to rise from the grave.

Three months after announcing its cancellation, Zombie Walk organizers have told New Times that they are reviving the popular Halloween season event, albeit with plenty of changes. It will take place on Saturday, October 29, at its new home in downtown Phoenix’s warehouse district, and will also feature new sponsors and an entirely new route for the walk.

Better start putting together your zombie costume now.

It's certainly good news for the thousands of Zombie Walk fans and participants that were mourning the loss of the event after its cancellation was announced in late May.

At the time, officials from Downtown Phoenix Inc., the nonprofit community development organization that’s put on the walk since 2009, stated they were killing off the Zombie Walk due to it having grown so big, including attracting more than 20,000 people each year, that they were unable to shoulder the financial and logistical burden.

RJ Price, a spokesperson for Downtown Phoenix Inc., says that while organizers regretted the decision, they felt the walk had become too large for only one organization to handle.

“It was this thing that organically grew over the last seven years, and we sort of just had to roll with it. And it got bigger and bigger and more and more expensive [with] more moving parts. And we were outside of what our budget should have been for the event,” he says. “It was extremely taxing on us as an organization both financially and from our personnel standpoint,” he says. “We weren't built to really put on large-scale events like that, and it’s not really within our strategic mission.”

The crowd at the Zombie Walk in 2014.
The crowd at the Zombie Walk in 2014.
Benjamin Leatherman

And despite the finality of the Zombie Walk’s cancellation announcement in May, Price says there was a chance it could be brought back from the dead if they could find another organization to co-produce the event.

“I thought we had really good reasons for why we decided to [cancel] the event. I maybe regret some of the ways I phrased why we were doing it. I think I could've been more strategic in that,” Price says. “But all along, we as an organization were always open to [partnering] with someone else who had more capacity and allow us to be more of a support mechanism.”

That’s exactly what happened earlier this summer when the Arizona Hemophilia Association reached out to co-produce the event. Price says that the nonprofit organization has previous experience with producing large events (including the popular My Nana's Salsa Festival), a charitable bent, and is headquartered in downtown Phoenix.

Plus, the fact the AHA is blood-related and dovetails with the playfully macabre theme of zombies was also a bonus.

“That wasn't a high priority, but the marketing [opportunity] is pretty great,” Price says.

Having new blood behind the scenes of the Zombie Walk isn’t the only change afoot. The event will take place in a new location along Jackson Street in the downtown Phoenix warehouse district and will only last four hours, from 4 until 8 p.m., as opposed to the block party-style extravaganza at the larger Heritage Square Park that unfolded each year. It will still be free to attend, albeit with a $5 suggested donation to the Arizona Hemophilia Association.

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“[We’ve] wanted to do an event in the warehouse district for a long time but didn’t necessarily have the operational capacity to do that. So this is a way to [accentuate] an up-and-coming part of downtown,” Price says. “And they're really enthusiastic about it and that's made the process even easier for us.”

The walk itself will now run through the area south of downtown and will go along Jackson Street before heading down First Avenue to either Lincoln or Grant streets before winding up back in the warehouse district.

“While the walk isn't happening in the middle of downtown, our hope is that a lot of the people that are at the event will migrate from that site into the core of downtown,” Price says.

A post-walk pub crawl for the 21-and-over crowd is also planned and will include stops at several downtown bars and drinkeries. (A commemorative wristband will be available for $20 and will benefit the AHA.) 

Even with all the changes, the M.O. of the Zombie Walk remains the same. According to Price, the event will still feature many of its hallmarks, like a costume contest, prizes, makeup and hair booths, and the chance to donate non-perishable food items to St. Mary's Food Bank. 

Price says all of the changes are aimed at streamlining the walk and making it both easier to manage and more cost-effective while still maintaining its low-cost nature.

“Obviously the community loves the event, and it's not really our business to take away something that everyone loves,” Price says. “So since there was a way to find a solution where the event could be re-imagined to be a little more cost-effective and we could find a new stakeholder or charitable partner or even an events promoter who'd like to step in and take it over and relieve some of the financial burden, we wanted to make it happen.”

In other words, you can never keep a good zombie down.

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