“Thaw of the Dead” breaks up quiet holiday weekend

Kelsey Gobroski / Sun Star Reporter
May 30, 2011

Zombie walk participants pose outside of the Clay Street Cemetery. The May 29 zombie walk was part of the second annual Thaw of the Dead event hosted by the Zombie Research Society. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star

Drops of blood discolored the pavement under a cloudless Sunday sky behind Immaculate Conception Catholic Church off Illinois Street. Soon, a group of celebrity zombies would lurch to Clay Street Cemetery where they would attack paparazzi. For now, they paid rapt attention to Marcus Mooers’ announcements as he held out a “brain on a stick” as incentive for the hungry automatons, who pulled inspiration from movies like “Dawn of the Dead” and “Zombieland.”

“What do we want?” Mooers said.

“Braaaaaains!” the crowd replied.

“When do we want them?”

“Braaaaaains!”

On May 29, more than 30 zombies attended the second annual “Thaw of the Dead” a zombie walk led by Zombie Research Society (ZRS) Fairbanks chapter president Mooers, with help from the chapter’s vice president Matt Schantzen. The walk was a celebration of Fairbanks earning full chapter status from ZRS. Similar zombie walks, like July’s “Red, White, and Dead” in Seattle, can draw more than 4000 participants. Mooers designed “Thaw of the Dead” to be a warning for Alaska residents.

“If this was the zombie apocalypse … about this time of year, they would unfreeze,” Mooers said.

Antonio Pacheco, a journalism student, dressed as undead Charlie Sheen. He wrote “winning” across his shirt in fake blood – a mixture of corn syrup, chocolate syrup, and food coloring – with a prosthetic latex-and-toilet-paper gash on his arm.

Melanie Lindholm found the event through Facebook and thought it would be a fun way to spend a Sunday, she said. She came as Corpse Bride, with her husband, Kyle, dressed as zombie Jesus.

Clay Street Cemetery caretaker Frank Turney read about the event in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and greeted the undead when they arrived.

“Don’t be afraid of this cemetery, no one talks back,” Turney said.

“Well, these guys will.” Mooers said.

The zombie walk rose into crescendo twice when the zombies attacked paparazzi Tarah Shickel and Shawn Colburn. Few pedestrians and cars witnessed the horde in downtown Fairbanks Sunday afternoon – almost as if the zombies were late to their own apocalypse, Mooers said.

Temperatures rose to 80 in Fairbanks as the undead shuffled back from the cemetery in blistering heat until buildings blocked out the sun. “Oh, shade of giant building,” Mooers shouted. “Shaaaaaaade!” the zombies moaned.

“Hey, zombies, turn around,” Christine McCormick said, clutching her camera as the zombies passed by her house while returning to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. “Thank you!”

McCormick thought the idea was great, she said, especially since both children and adults were involved. The time of year and place were also fitting. “You got the tourists – perfect,” she said.

The walks can be disconcerting to Fairbanks newcomers. During the first “Thaw of the Dead” in 2009, the horde passed by a group of dining tourists, Mooers recalled. One tourist walked up to a zombie and said, “We’re trying to eat our lunch here.”

“So are we,” the zombie replied.

Mooers had hoped for more than 100 zombies, he said – if, in the future, the event draws more participants, he would be willing to include costume prizes. The permit for this zombie walk cost $100 and fees, he said.

Mooers and Schantzen try to integrate weapon familiarity and disaster preparedness into the Fairbanks zombie subculture, an approach that helped Mooers earlier this month. On May 20, the Moose Mountain Fire was about a mile from Mooers’s home. He could hear trees exploding. Mooers already had everything he needed — clothes, weapons, food, and water — in a “go bag.”

“If you’re ready for the zombie apocalypse, you’re ready for any apocalypse,” Mooers said.

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