The living dead take over downtown Winnipeg

Thousands of Winnipeggers took to the streets Friday night in a unified march with a single demand: brains.

The fifth annual Winnipeg Zombie Walk, held on Oct. 14, brought out a diverse crowd, as people of all ages and wearing all kinds of costumes came out to partake in the only night of the year when you are encouraged to look your worst.

It also gave participants a chance to show off their creativity. Zombie bananas mingled with zombie hockey players, zombie brides walked with zombie hunters, and a zombie breakdancer showed off his moves.

The walk began at Stephen Juba Park, where people had congregated beforehand to get into character and watch a performance by a group of fire spinners. The crowd then proceeded to the Forks for a zombie pep rally, where chants of “Brains! Brains! Brains!” broke out amongst the cheerful zombies.

Staggering and groaning, the long trail of zombies continued the march past the legislative building and onto Osborne Street, leaving a trail of bloody handprints and backed-up traffic in their wake.

The Winnipeg Zombie Walk has been increasing in popularity every year since the first official walk in 2007. Since then it has ballooned from a small gathering of zombie enthusiasts into a large, organized annual event.

“The first official walk took place in 2007, where 50 people showed up and walked from Old Market Square to Osborne Village,” said Nikki Coubrough, zombie make-up artist and one of the organizers of the event. She added that last year “over 3,500 zombies were in attendance, a local rap group filmed a music video and we donated to Winnipeg Harvest. It seems every year it keeps getting bigger and better.”

The 2011 edition of the zombie walk was no exception. While it is difficult to know exactly how many people were there, organizers stated there were more people in attendance, and more food and money donated to Winnipeg Harvest than in 2010. First-time zombie walk participant, Michelle Urrutia, said she loved the atmosphere.

“I think it’s great,” she said with a blood-smeared smile. “It really brings Winnipeg together. All you need is a good zombie groan, along with some convincing make-up”.

Contrary to most zombie literature, the zombies wandering the streets Friday night meshed quite well with the general public. People driving by stopped to take pictures, pedestrians interacted with the zombies and police officers directed traffic at busy intersections.

Of course there are always a few surprises.

“We like to think that most people already know about the zombie walk but that’s not always the case,” said Coubrough. “We still find people the eve of the walk doing double-takes, crossing to the other side of the street and even running into the opposite direction.”

She said reactions vary from “What’s going on here?” to “Oh I wish I knew about this earlier.”

“I find Winnipeg has a pretty good sense of humour and generally people are pretty interested in what’s happening,” said Coubrough.

The night was capped off by a zombie walk after-party at the Zoo in Osborne Village.