Lawrence may become a world record holder for zombies, and I’m not even talking about the hordes of college students who have to get up before noon. No, Lawrence’s popular Zombie Walk in downtown is getting a boost this year. The walk will be part of something called Hellaweenfest on Oct. 27.
Look for a downtown street to be closed, a local restaurant to be converted into a haunted house, an outdoor horror movie, and some version of a world-record attempt. The organizers of the festival are hoping to set a world record for the greatest number of people who are dressed up as zombies doing the "Thriller" dance.
If your 1980s brain didn’t get eaten by Charlie Sheen, you may remember the "Thriller" video that came out in 1983. The Michael Jackson video has a scene where a large group of zombies dance in unison to Jackson’s hit song.
Ryan Robinson — a Lawrence-based promoter who was part of The Color Run craze — came up with the idea of breaking a world record in this unique zombie category. As far as world records go, you may want to use your zombie brain and not overthink it. I don’t think Guinness World Records necessarily has a record for zombies doing the "Thriller" dance. It does have one for people in general doing the "Thriller" dance, and that is 13,597 people in Mexico City in 2009, according to the Guinness site. But, they maybe weren’t all wearing zombie costumes.
Robinson and others have done a little research, and the largest zombie dance they found was in 2009 when a group of more than 1,500 inmates in a Philippines prison donned zombie makeup and did the dance as part of their exercise routine to commemorate the death of Jackson. (When you have time on your hands . . . )
Robinson thinks Lawrence can beat that number by quite a bit and make the world record claim. There already are 2,000 people people signed up to participate in the Zombie Walk. Robinson thinks the event will draw 3,000 to 4,000 people. The walk had originally been scheduled for Oct. 12, but that date was changed to coincide with the "Thriller" event.
“Halloween has just gotten so big,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of weird people out there in the world.”
I’ll leave it to others to confirm the zombie record, but I can confirm this should be one of your five best opportunities to dress up like a zombie this year in Lawrence. Here are some details about the Oct. 27 event:
The block of Seventh Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire street will be blocked off for a street festival. Inside the closed-off block will be a beer vendor, carnival games, face painters, food stands and other such items. The area will be free to enter, although there will be lots of merchandise and donation opportunities to support the Lawrence Humane Society and Headquarters Counseling Center. Gates open at 4 p.m..
Wake the Dead Breakfast Bar, 7 E. Seventh St., will convert itself into a haunted house for the event. Rachael Ulbrick, a co-owner of the restaurant, said organizers are close to signing a deal with one of the really large haunted house companies in Kansas City to come outfit the Lawrence restaurant. The haunted house will be free to enter, but will be accepting donations for the Humane Society, Ulbrick said.
The zombie action kicks into high gear at 6 p.m. (Well, zombies don’t really have a high gear, but you get what I mean.) Organizers are asking all zombies who want to participate in the dance to show up at Seventh and Massachusetts Street at 6 p.m. to learn the dance moves. Ulbrick plans to have an area cheerleading squad on hand to provide the appropriate instruction. The world record attempt will begin at 7 p.m.
The actual Zombie Walk — which is the 11th annual — will begin at 7:05 p.m. at Seventh and Mass. If you are a spur-of-the-moment zombie, that is no problem. Robinson said there will be several zombie stations near Seventh and Mass. People can make a small donation to the Humane Society, and volunteers will make sure you have on the appropriate zombie makeup.
About 10 p.m., Headquarters Counseling Center will show the classic "Rocky Horror Picture Show" on a big screen set up on Seventh Street. Ulbrick said plans call for a more kid-friendly film to be shown beforehand.
Robinson, who owns Lawrence-based Silverback Event Productions, said he’s excited to be involved with a Halloween-themed event in Lawrence. He said Lawrence’s Zombie Walk already is one of the largest in the Midwest. He thinks the community has a chance to use its popularity to create a weekend festival in the future.
“I think it could certainly pull in 5,000 to 10,000 people over a weekend, if it turned into something like that,” Robinson said. “Something as quirky and as unmistakable as a zombie fest would fit in well with the vibe of Lawrence.”
New game store opens in West Lawrence; date set for downtown’s annual Zombie Walk; city seeking input on next city manager
I don’t know what you think of when you hear the phrase “Rolling Gnome,” but I know I’m reminded of a long night with a Halloween bail bondsman. Perhaps in the future, though, you will think of a rollicking good time with a set of board games.
All this is to say there is a new game store in town by the name of Rolling Gnome Games. The store recently opened at 3727 W. Sixth St. in the building that houses Rueschoff security and several other businesses.
In today’s world, when you hear of a game store, you think of Xbox, Playstation or some app that unleashes the true power of your “smart” phone. (Nothing makes us smarter than learning the craft of mining in a fictional world.) But Rolling Gnome co-owner Maximillian Tompkins said his store isn’t focusing on those types of games. Instead, it specializes in the world of board games, card games and other such fun. He said the idea of board games is making a comeback.
“It is a great way to get people to start talking to each other,” Tompkins said. “It is a great way to socialize.”
The store sells strategy games, thematic games, party games, family games, role playing games, miniature games, card games and even something called Eurogames. (I’m not directly familiar with Eurogames, but I assume they involve constant arguing over the euro, and a player dressed as Angela Merkel who is required to constantly yell “Nein, Nein,” to the player who has the misfortune of playing the role of Greece.)
If you are not quite sure whether your toga fits anymore (I assume that’s what Greece wears), you can rent a game instead of buying it. Tompkins said the store has a program where you pay 10 percent of the retail price, and you can take the game home for 24 hours. If you decide to buy the game, the 10 percent is applied to the purchase price.
In addition to games, the store also sells several miniatures, Star Wars collectibles and other such items. The store also will host demo nights, and it has a special area where people can come and play games in-store.
The idea of a board game store actually has become a bit of a trend in the Lawrence retail market. If you remember, we reported back in June about about Topeka-based Boom Comics signing a deal to open a large comic book shop that also will be a major game store in the former Kief’s building on south Iowa Street.
Tompkins — who owns the store with his mother, Holly Tompkins — said he thinks Lawrence’s combined market of college students and families can support another store.
“I was working at a dead end job, and I really love board games,” Tompkins said. “There is not one in this area of town, and I felt like it was time.”
In other news and notes from around town:
• I know I’m busy making my Angela Merkel zombie costume. Hopefully, you are too. Lawrence’s Ninth Annual Zombie Walk is coming up. The date is set for Oct. 15 in downtown Lawrence. Like in years past, hundreds of people dressed in zombie costumes gather at South Park at sunset and then parade down the sidewalks of Massachusetts Street.
Mike Logan of The Granada is one of the major organizers of the event this year, and he is smart enough to know that you don’t do zombies in Lawrence without first going through City Hall. Commissioners at their meeting last night approved a permit that will allow The Granada to host a “zombie watch party” on a portion of the vacant Allen Press property in the 1000 block of Massachusetts Street. The watch party will include music, a beer garden, food vendors and other entertainment suited for all ages. The event also includes opportunities for people to make donations, and it looks like this year’s major beneficiary is the Lawrence Humane Society. (Expect a big crowd because the zombies are likely to read it as Human Society, which really gets them excited. Zombies are terrible readers.)
It looks like The Granada also is hosting a couple of other special events prior to the Oct. 15 zombie watch party. Commissioners also approved a permit for a free concert — also on the Allen Press lot — for Sept. 16. Logan told me this morning that party is to help celebrate The Granada's birthday. The concert is set to be One More Time: A Daft Punk Tribute. (Based on my failure to properly explain Eurogames, I don't think you want me trying to explain what that means.) Also approved was a permit for a free concert on the same lot, which is just south of The Granada, on Oct. 9. Concert details on that event is still being worked out. In addition to the concerts, both events will include beer gardens and food booths.
• Maybe creating a new department for Zombie Watch Party permits is your top priority for a new Lawrence city manager. Or, perhaps, it is something else. City officials are interested in knowing about it.
City officials have launched a new online survey seeking feedback on the most important “characteristics/attributes” of the next city manager. In case you have forgotten, the city is seeking a new city manager to replace David Corliss, who took a similar job in Colorado.
The online survey asks you a few demographic questions about your time in Lawrence and what you do in the city. But the meat of the survey involves choosing from a list of attributes the ones that you find most important in a city manager. People can choose up to seven. Here’s the list that you can choose from:
— Involvement/presence in the community
— Experience outside Lawrence
— Ties to Lawrence
— Strong leadership with expert voice
— Experience with economic development
— Experience managing people
— Experience with municipal finance and budgeting
— Experience with strategic and long-range planning
— Experience with social issues (e.g. mental health, homelessness, and affordable housing.)
— Experience with cultural competence and diversity
— Experience with managed growth in cities
— Experience with multi-modal transportation in cities
— Experience with collective bargaining
The city will tally the results of the survey, and present them to city commissioners in October. People can take the survey online through Oct. 2. Click here or go to lawrenceks.org/lawrence-listens to take the survey.
• A quick update on the search for someone to fill the vacant seat on the Lawrence City Commission. The deadline to apply for the appointment is 5 p.m. today at City Hall. Yesterday I reported that Charlie Bryan, a health planner for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, was considering applying for the open seat. He got back in contact with me this morning. He said he did indeed give the idea a lot of thought, but has decided not to apply for the spot. That puts us back to four folks who have confirmed an interest in applying for the position: former City Commissioners Terry Riordan and David Schauner, former school board member Scott Morgan, and former city commission candidate David Crawford.