Early in the afternoon, the sidewalks in downtown Rapid City were filled with youngsters dressed as ladybugs, princesses and firemen. As evening approached, though, the clouds moved in and the princesses and ladybugs morphed into corpse brides and zombies.
Almost 1,000 zombies slowly crept along the sidewalks through downtown as a part of the third annual Ifrit’s Zombie Walk. Ashen faces, blood and decaying body parts were the attire of choice for young and old alike.
Eden Gibson, 10, couldn’t wait to paint her face, add a little blood and transform from a nurse to a zombie nurse.
“This is great,” she said. “I love it. Look at how awesome everybody looks. It’s crazy.”
Gibson was spending the day with her aunt, Amber Siebert, who said she wasn’t worried about the event being too adult or violent for her niece.
“This is a fun thing for us to do together,” Siebert said. “They’ve done a great job of making it kid friendly. They tell you not to bring really young kids, but for the ones a little older, it’s a fun way to spend the day.”
Walk co-organizer C.J. Desmond said the event is like a big show or a performance.
“(The participants) really get into the role of a zombie. There’s no talking, just moaning,” Desmond said. “They do a great job of staying in character.”
Zombie walks have become a phenomena across the country, he said.
“Large metropolitan areas have been doing it for years, Desmond said. “We’ve seen a huge interest in it right here over the past few years.”
People plan and prepare for the event, Desmond said. There were a lot of people who put a great deal of thought and effort into their costumes. Brenden James said he spent about three hours affixing pieces of flesh to his face and completing his costume.
“I have always loved Halloween but when you get older you can’t dress up anymore unless you are heading to a bar or something. This is a great way to get to dress up like when we were kids and have a blast,” James said.
In its first year, the zombie walk attracted about 40 participants, last year it grew to about 400. This year’s event more than doubled again to nearly 1,000 participants. In the past, the walk began at Ifrit’s Hookah Lounge. With the huge growth, came the need for a bigger location to kick off the walk, so organizers teamed up with the Rapid City Downtown Association and Main Street Square for this year’s event.
Zombies began at Main Street Square and wound through downtown. At several points along the way, the crowd would surround and overtake actors transforming them into the living dead, as well. The walk ended back at the square, with zombies filling downtown’s newest gathering place.
“We’re delighted with the entire day,” said Megan Karbowski, executive director for Main Street Square. “(The square) was intended to be a central gathering point for the community, to increase awareness of the downtown businesses and to increase the economic development. I think we’re accomplishing that today.”
Desmond said the new square was a great place to host the event, as they outgrew their space at the Hookah Lounge.
“There is no way we could have had a thousand people at our own place. It’s become a real community event and (the square) is a great community place to have it at,” Desmond said. “I’m looking forward to having it here again next year.”
In addition to the Zombie Walk, the day’s activities included trick or treating at downtown businesses, a pumpkin-carving contest and dance performances. The On Your Toes School of Dancing kicked off the walk with a performance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, complete with the dancers in complete zombie attire.