On Saturday Sept. 14, Kitchener came to life as the ninth annual zombie walk shuffled to yet another year of spooky success.
The event began nine years ago when Ronald Hoppe arrived to the area from Calgary and, witnessing the Waterloo zombie walk of that year, questioned why the same didn’t occur in his city of Kitchener.
In the midst of the 2008 economic downturn, Hoppe decided to take advantage of the walk in order to meet the needs of the community.
Although other walks similar in theme enjoy slightly larger numbers, Hoppe noted that, without an added dimension, the event seemed somewhat “empty”.
So as to create a sense of purpose within his own rendition of the event, Hoppe decided to organize a food drive component in addition to the walk.
Taking it one step further, Hoppe incorporated one more facet of local life.
“Let’s reconnect the [people] of Kitchener to their own independent retail stores downtown,” Hoppe recalled thinking.
Thus reaching out to local shop owners, Hoppe’s hope was to engage all members of the community, and specifically support Kitchener businesses by extending this as a unique opportunity for exposure.
“So that gave the Kitchener zombie walk it’s own unique thumb print moving forward,” said Hoppe.
All in all, the event is not so much a fright as it is fun.
Year after year, zombie-wannabes take to the streets to lend a hand (firmly attached) to the cause of community.
This year, the event saw over 50 people. This figure marked a 60 per cent increase from last year, which was a feat Hoppe regarded as lucky, considering the weekend’s poor weather.
With an annual goal of 666 lbs of food, to be divided between multiple food banks in the area, to date the event has enjoyed incredible success and the community continues to reap the reward.
“Overall, we didn’t get the goal,” said Hoppe of this year’s yield. “But it gives us something to ‘walk for’ next year.”
Regardless of the statistics, the walk remains a highly impactful event, and year after year, adds a family-friendly event to a season typically dominated by Oktoberfest
“Over the years, I’ve seen people come back year after year,” noted Hoppe. “And now those people are also having families so what’s happened here is that the hard-edged cult-like zombie community is now becoming this really soft family-friendly event as well.”
Next year, the walk will celebrate a decade of spooks.
In terms of planning, Hoppe admits the year-to-year work is rather minimal.
“Doing an event like this really, really simplistic for me, from an event coordinating perspective because I just go back to the stores… it just really basically [is a] copy, paste, repeat…”
However, working with the living dead is not without its struggles. Each year, the Kitchener zombie walk operates on a limited budget “…and that’s okay,” said Hoppe.
This coming year, the coordinator looks forward to applying for grants and bursaries from both the region and province in order to offset the cost.
Overall, Hoppe is proud of what the event has contributed to the community and the way in which residents have rallied to support the cause.
“I am just proud of [the fact] that every single year we get a little bit bigger; every single year we get individuals who are coming out to help us out with this walk initiative; every single year we get more individuals engaged with other events within the city itself and that’s making this place a more fun and artistic place to be…”
“I think that I’ve created [an] event that can bring some positive, long-term change into the region,” Hoppe reflected.
For more information or to get involved with the event, visit kitchenerzombiewalk.com.