IOWA CITY — If you happen to see zombies wandering around Iowa City later this month, we promise it is not the zombie apocalypse. It’s just the 12th Annual Iowa City Zombie March lurching into town.
Shaw Beatty, who has organized the event for the last 12 years, and fittingly goes by the nickname “King Zombie,” said more than 150 people are likely to gather at Happy Hollow Park on Saturday, Sept. 23, dressed as zombies to wander undead-like through Iowa City in support of a good cause.
“I’ve always liked zombies since I was a kid,” Beatty said, noting that the Iowa City Zombie March started well before zombies hit the pop culture scene thanks to the popularity of shows like “The Walking Dead.”
“I was living in Wisconsin and I missed one that was in Madison. I could have gone but I didn’t know about it so I was mad and wanted to do my own zombie march,” Beatty said of the event’s origins. “I am from Eastern Iowa originally and got my undergraduate degree at Iowa and I thought I’d host it there in Iowa City with some friends. I thought, ‘Even if it fails I’d have my friends there and we’ll have a good time.’ The first one, we had 30 people show up, and after that we just kept doing it.”
This year’s march features an 1980s high school graduation theme.
“Just being zombies gets old so each year now we pick a theme to give people a challenge and raise the bar. This year I picked the ’80s theme because I graduated in the ’80s and it’s the 12th year so I’ve completed my compulsory zombie education,” he said, noting that they’ve also done a political theme, a bowling theme, a show tunes theme, an outer space them and a super hero theme.
The event starts at Happy Hollow Park, 800 Brown St., and while the march itself doesn’t start until 5 p.m., Beatty said they encourage people to show up early.
“People will start showing up at the park around 3:30 p.m. Some show up in makeup all ready to go and others get some help from professionals that are doing makeup for a donation,” he said.
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The Zombie March goes from the park down Dodge Street, up Iowa Avenue, across the Pentacrest to the mall and into the Ped Mall before ending up at The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., for an after party. Beatty said zombies get in free; otherwise there is a $5 cover charge.
“We also have T-shirts available for purchase and all that money goes to the charities of the night.”
The event is not only fun, but also has a charitable component. Beatty said over the years they have supported a number of different organizations based on people’s recommendations.
“The first march was a test to see if we could do it so we didn’t have a charity,” he said. “But year two, we started supporting different local charities. Recently, we’ve supported Table to Table almost every year because their organization has been really helpful to us. For the second charity this year I picked the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation of Chicago because a friend of mine from high school actually has Dystonia. I chose that as another charity because I know her.”
Beatty, who now lives in Columbia, Mo., said this is his last year organizing the Iowa City event.
“I’ve organized it for 12 years and I’ve been trying to quit for the last several years but people keep saying how cool it is so I just kept planning it. Now I’m passing it on to someone who lives in Iowa City to continue planning it because I think it could be bigger, but I don’t have the resources, time or proximity to make it so. This event is only successful because people show up.”
Beatty noted it’s also a family friendly, all ages event that raises money in a unique way.
“The people coming to do the Zombie March probably aren’t the people doing the 5K or 10K run for some other charity. It’s a different dynamic and each year we get more and more people.”
If you go
What: Iowa City Zombie March
When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23
Where: Happy Hollow Park, 800 Brown St., Iowa City