Zombies and onlookers jammed Main and Partition streets in Saugerties last Saturday night, in what Brian Solomon, one of the organizers and owner of the blog spot Vault of Horror, called the “largest Zombie Crawl in the Northeast.”
While the annual event is still a pub crawl at heart, the Zombie Crawl is morphing into a family event that draws participants from a wider region.
Some of the most enthusiastic participants were, in fact, little kids, those whose ages are still in the single digits. Little Paige Hart, 5, and her big sister Clarissa, 9, all decked out in zombie makeup, said they were having a great time. “And we’re not afraid,” Paige said, “because it’s just people in costume.”
But what costumes.
Nicole Kellerhouse of Mount Laurel and a number of friends drove more than three hours up from New Jersey just to take part in the festivities. They spent six hours doing their make-up. “We were inspired,” they said of their costumes, “from watching zombie video games and movies. We have great imaginations and a great appreciation for the disgusting.”
Kellerhouse’s dad hails from Saugerties and still lives here. He’s the one who told them about the event. “We just had to be here,” she said. She and her friends tried to devour the brains of local resident Shannon Schlenker, who was caught walking along Main Street without zombie protection.
Jamiee Moxham, known as Captain Cruella of the Carnivorous Cadavers and organizer of the event, said she was overwhelmed by the turnout. The event has grown. Last year, there were an estimated 700 participants, and this year more than 2400.
“We had no expectations as to the number of people to expect,” Moxham said. “But we had high hopes, and to see all the kids, it’s just great.”
Shea Mudge, 6, of Red Hook made sure her mom was going to bring her to the Zombie Crawl. “I kind of like zombies,” Mudge said with an evil grin. “The zombies are pretty cool.”
An older friend, Sarah Kirschenheiter of Red Hook, helped Mudge with her makeup. “The scarier the better,” she urged.
“This is just such a great thing for the village,” said village trustee Jeannine Mayer. “Events like this bring people from all over into our village. Everyone likes to dress up and this gives them a chance to do it in a safe and fun environment.”
Some of the participants cooked up elaborate stories as to how they became zombies. Ten-year-old Girl Scout Starllie Swon Young of Saugerties was going door-to-door selling girl-scout cookies. When daylight came she entered an old woman’s house (played by her mom, Emmallyea Swon Young) and ate her brains, turning her into a zombie.
Starllie, who said she doesn’t really like horror movies, said it was fun dressing up like a zombie,
“ ‘cause we are just making fun of horror movies and having fun as well.”
Neal Smoller, co-owner of the Village Apothecary and main sponsor of the event, said he was hoping there would be a huge turnout. “This has been tremendous,” Smoller said. “The people have been so generous.”
This year’s crawl was a dual fundraiser, collecting food for the Saugerties Food Pantry and monetary donations to rehabilitate and update the Small World Playground.
The day after the event, Smoller estimated that between 300 and 500 pounds of canned goods had been collected for the food pantry and that more than $4000 donated for Small World.
Last year there had been some concern about zombies walking the streets and blocking traffic along Main and Partition streets. To help keep participants safe, police chief Joseph Sinagra this year closed off those streets.
Police were also on hand to make sure everyone was safe. “We want to keep everyone safe so that they keep coming back each year,” Sinagra said.
Checkpoints were manned by employees from the Village Apothecary, the Computer Guys, and Hudson Valley Horrors Roller Derby League. These helpers took in donations, checked IDs and issued wristbands to those who wanted to drink in the bars and restaurants.
“We just want to keep making the event more family-friendly, and continue to bring people into Saugerties,” Smoller explained.