The undead gather in Marietta to help the living
By Stacey L. Evans
As you’ve seen in countless movies and the hugely popular TV show “The Walking Dead,” zombie populations multiply quickly. It’s been happening in Marietta since the first infestation five years ago. In 2011, around 300 undead were spotted gathering in the Marietta Square one mid-October evening. Last year, the number was over 900. This Oct. 17, there’s speculation the numbers will swell to over 1,100. But these zombies are a bit different, at least on this day of the year. Rather than gathering to feast on the living, they gather to give to them.
Their leader, Gary Hasty, a huge Halloween and horror fan, wanted to combine his passions of fright and philanthropy.
“Every Halloween, I’m the house that goes a little above and beyond in the neighborhood. I have always dressed up and went crazy with costumes ever since I can remember,” the Kennesaw resident said. “Growing up I was a huge fan of Kiss, so I was Gene Simmons for at least three years. I always like classic universal monsters like Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula. I always watched late night Saturday bad movie TV called Shock Theater when I was growing up. I was hooked on the campiness of it. The first midnight movie I ever went to was ‘Dawn of the Dead.’”
So when tossing around charity event ideas with members of his church, McEachern Methodist, zombies were on his brain. With “The Walking Dead” being filmed in the Atlanta area for the past five years, zombies are a hot commodity in Georgia, Hasty said.
“What’s the one thing zombies don’t need?” he asked. “Food.” He had seen bar-hopping zombie walks in the past, and liked the idea of creating something similar with a charity-based slant. Participants would dress as zombies and be asked to bring donations of nonperishable food items, since the undead no longer need food.
MUST Ministries was the natural fit as the beneficiary. The Marietta-based nonprofit provides a “Hand Up” to local residents during tough times. MUST served more than 32,000 people in Cobb and Cherokee counties last year through a variety of programs including the food pantry.
“MUST Ministries has one of biggest food pantries in area,” said Hasty. “We thought that would hit the most people living in need and it’s a local organization in this area.”
All proceeds from the Zombie Walk go to MUST. Since 2011, the event has donated over 40 barrels of food and $3,000 to the organization. The donations arrive at a time when it’s most needed. The nonprofit’s pantries are typically bare in the time between the start of school and Thanksgiving, Hasty said.
Hasty is in the process of turning the Zombie Walk into a nonprofit organization. As a nonprofit, the event can get matching funds from corporate sponsors, and it will be easier to expand to other cities. Kennesaw and Acworth have approached Hasty about starting zombie walks there. You can donate to help raise funds at http://MariettaZombieWalk.org. (Look for the ‘donate now’ button).
“As a nonprofit we can do more good,” said Hasty.
details + how to walk like a zombie
Cobb Life is a sponsor of the Marietta Zombie Walk, which follows the Harvest Square festival Oct. 17 on the Marietta Square.
Makeup artists will be on site from 2:00 to 5:45 p.m. to help you look your zombie-best; a $12 donation is suggested. VIP makeup sessions can be booked online in advance at http://MariettaZombieWalk.org for a higher fee. Hasty recommends arriving early if you are planning to get makeup done at the event.
The horror surf band Genki Genki Panic will play at 5 p.m.
The walk starts at 6 p.m. and is a .8 mile trip around the square. Participants are encouraged to stay in character and mimic classic zombies with slow, shuffling movements.
“We have had people crawl the entire walk,” said Hasty. “A good zombie walk should take about an hour to go the distance.”
After the walk the band will play another set, and then zombies are free to roam where they please, but must abide by rules posted on the website. There will also be food vendors whose profits are donated to MUST.
“Bring some cash to grab some treats and that money will go to a good cause,” said Hasty.
http://MariettaZombieWalk.org | 404.219.1801
WANT MORE ZOMBIE?
You’re invited to a zombie prom.
An executive by day, Gary Hasty also owns Carnival of Doom, an events planning company that organizes creature features, B-movies, sideshow freak shows and more. The company is organizing an event at Burnt Hickory Brewery in Kennesaw, which makes a special Halloween brew called Charred Walls of the Damned every year. On Oct. 24, the brewery will transform into a zombie prom so the undead can dance their hearts out while also getting a tour and a taste of the special brew. Three bands are scheduled to play from noon to 6 p.m.
Come dressed in your sharpest zombie wear, said Hasty, because a zombie prom king and queen will be crowned.