Katherine Belchior did not invite any zombies to her daughter’s second birthday party in Rotary Park on Saturday.
Regardless — they came, they saw, they scared.
There were 132 of the undead walking through Red Deer streets for the second annual Zombie Walk in support of the Red Deer Food Bank Society on Sept. 14, a group that ended their trundle at Rotary Recreation Park. That was where seven birthday parties were being held that afternoon, according to Belchior.
“They were on the swings, they were walking through the equipment. There was literally no safe place for the kids to go,” said Belchior of the about 30 adults and children who came into the park dressed and made up as zombies.
The mother of a two-year-old and four-year-old said the zombie walkers were convincingly macabre, dragging their legs as they walked and acting like zombies through the park. She said the acting left her four-year-old son “irrational from fear” and wanting to leave the park immediately.
She herded her children and the birthday party attendees up and left the park, and said she has found it hard to allay her children’s fears since.
“It may be fun if you want to do that, but go to City Hall, don’t meet at Rotary Park where there’s a whole bunch of kids on a Saturday afternoon. That’s just careless,” said Belchior.
The walk was organized by Slumland Theatre. Owner Desiree Marshall said walk participants stopped at the park to eat and rest on the hot afternoon, and noted that there were not too many people in the park, as they did not have to set up their own tables but were able to use vacant picnic benches.
“There was barely anybody there and half of our people were children. We had kids as young as three there with us dressed up as zombies.
“I’d understand if it was a bunch of punk teenagers, but it was half parents and their little ones who were with us,” said Marshall.
The walk was held last year as well, and Marshall said she has heard no other complaints about the charitable initiative. At the start of the walk, participants were told of the rules to follow, including respecting members of the public walkers came across.
Marshall said she was surprised at the negative reaction, because last year participants were far more convincing in their act than in this year’s event. The zombie walk was organized to appeal to all ages, she said.
“It brings out everybody of all ages and it keeps young people interested in doing something positive for the city. You can’t get young people involved in charity events unless it’s something that interests them,” said Marshall.
The walk brought in 170 kilograms of donated food, plus cash donations. Food bank deputy director Alice Kolisnyk said it is unfortunate that some children got scared as a result, but said such a public, outdoor event cannot be fully isolated from children.
Belchior said she supports people helping the food bank, but thought the zombie walk was poorly planned.
“If you want to do that, fine. But consider the audience,” she said.
Marshall said she expects the zombie walk will be an annual event. There were 36 more participants in 2013 than in 2012.