Friday Oct. 18 marks the return of the Utica Zombie Walk in celebration of its 10th anniversary.
What began as a longshot idea on a message forum soon gained enough traction for a frequently celebrated event. Kyle Riecker, who founded the event back in 2009, said many of his friends thought that the chances of the event actually happening were one and a million.
“When I threw out the idea I was laughed at,” Reicker said. “But the event ended up gaining plenty of attraction. Our peak year saw over a thousand people participate when we had the walk at the Stanley Theatre a few years ago.”
The walk has not been featured since 2015 because of Riecker’s desire and commitment to start a family. With the 10th anniversary of the walk approaching and no one available to assume the organizer position, Riecker took charge in order to commemorate the special occasion.
The Utica College Theatre Department has been a major contributor to the walk for many years. Many of the students contribute to the special effects, makeup for the zombies, and this year, students will have the opportunity to be more involved.
“We’ll have about 15 students from the Theatre Department come dressed as zombie cross-guards to help out,” Riecker said.
One person who was involved in the Zombie Walk for many years and a good friend of Riecker’s was former UC Theatre Professor Marijean Levering, who died of breast cancer in 2017. Riecker said Levering’s and her students’ work over the years were instrumental in contributing success to the event.
“This year’s event means a lot personally,” Riecker said. “It’s both a celebration of the event itself, as well as a tribute to her [Levering].”
Since its inception, the walk has not only been a chance for people to get together but also an opportunity to give back to the community. While the event has free admission, everyone is encouraged to bring a non-perishable pet food item or pet care items to donate to the Stevens-Swan Humane Society, and/or a cash donation for the Uptown Theatre for Creative Arts.
People of all ages are welcome to attend, although anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Unlike previous years, anyone who goes to the event should come already in costume, as there will be no free makeup given out. Special Effects artist Jess Daniels will be at the event to “zombify” any of the participants for a small fee. No realistic fake weapons are allowed.
Doors open on Oct. 18 at 5 p.m. at the Uptown Theatre on 2014 Genesee Street, Utica. The general gathering will be held from 5-7p.m., with provided snacks and a live set from DJ Phungeye. The designated time for the walk itself is 7-8 p.m.
For adults 21 and older and a $10 entry fee, an after party will be held inside the Uptown Theatre after the conclusion of the walk, beginning at 8:30 p.m.
“Come and watch even if you don’t participate in the walk itself,” Riecker said. “It’s a chance for everyone to feel like they’re a part of something.”