By Naomi Hofferber
Each fall in Iowa City, the undead come alive for one weekend to swarm the streets in a massive, demented horde — for a good cause, of course.
The Iowa City Zombie March is an annual event that brings zombie fanatics and common folk alike out for a night of marching, music, costume contests, and more, to raise money for charity. This year, the event was held Sept. 24 beginning at Happy Hollow Park, with makeup prep set to begin at 3:30 p.m. and the march itself shortly after at 5 p.m.
Those involved voiced a variety of reasons to march. For UI alumnus Shawn Beatty, the creator of the Zombie March, it was his deep love for the undead.
“I think I can trace it back to the old Ray Harryhausen movies,” Beatty said. “He did a lot of stop action monsters in the ’60s and ’70s.”
Harryhausen, a stop-motion artist who began working in the late-40s, contributed his expertise to multiple films that used stop-motion monsters, including Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and It Came from Beneath the Sea.
“In Jason and the Argonauts, there was this really cool scene with stop-action skeletons; it was amazing,” Beatty said. “I used to watch Saturday afternoon ‘Creature Features,’ [and] zombies and the undead were my thing.”
After having missed a zombie walk in Madison, Wisconsin, Beatty decided to create his own event in Iowa.
“I was like, ‘Well if I do it in Cedar Rapids or Marion, at least my friends in the area will show up; maybe we’ll get 20 or 30 people.’”
Now in its 11th year, the Iowa City Zombie March tends to attract around 100 to 150 zombies, Beatty said.
This year, the march will donate the money raised to two charities: Deafinitely Dogs, a Cedar Rapids charity that supports service dogs in the area, and Table to Table, an organization that distributes food to locals in need.
“We try to take places that aren’t nationally affiliated,” Beatty said. “Places that don’t get a lot of money or a lot of recognition.”
Before the hordes of the undead take to the Iowa City streets, marchers have to have the zombie “look.” This is where Troy Laurier comes in.
“I like to make effects; it’s actually the most fun [part] for me,” he said. “I like to make people cringe.”
Laurier, a budding special-effects artist, met Beatty a few years back, and he has officially been creating zombie makeovers since last year’s march.
“If someone’s going to view my work, I like it to make an impression,” Laurier said. “The effects usually take a bit; you have to make it look good and convincing.”
Laurier said zombie effects can take anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours to apply, based on the effect’s level of complexity, which—in official Marcher jargon—ranges from a simple “bitten” look to an elaborate “rotting” effect.
After the march, zombies and the living alike can attend an after party at the Mill, which features three bands as diverse as the zombies themselves, from the alternative-indie of Hunter Dumped Us Here to the hard, grungy rock of Flannel Season, to the Celtic pub band Wylde Nept.
Joe Finn, a member of the three-piece Flannel Season, said his love of zombies dates back to his childhood.
“I grew up on horror movies,” he said. “My dad presented them as comedy. I mean, Freddy Krueger … it’s hilarious.”
Finn said the best part of the event is knowing there is a community of like-minded people out there.
“It’s usually just a pretty laid-back environment,” said Jason Feight, a drummer for Hunter Dumped Us Here. “All [people] there seem as if they are there to just have fun and get another chance other than Oct. 31 to dress up.”
What: Iowa City Zombie March
When: Sept. 24, march begins at 5 p.m., makeup prep begins at 3:30 p.m.
Where: Happy Hollow Park
Cost: Free to march, $5 donation for the after-party at Mill, 120 E. Burlington