The media normally present swarming invasions of the rotting undead as a negative, but in reality that’s all anti-zombie spin. We tend to look past the myriad positives that zombies do for society; in fact, those suspicious of zombies don’t need to look any further than the fourth annual Village Invasion of Saugerties, during which an estimated 5,000 living corpses and other ghouls will swallow up Main and Partition Streets, drumming up business for Saugerties shops and restaurants and raising funds for a local municipal project in the process.
The invasion is headed by local horror maven, zombie queen and event organizer Jaimee Moxham, nom de zombie Captain Cruella. Moxham started the event in 2009, originally intending it to be a small affair for her and about 50 zombie friends. “I thought it would be fun, you know: Just get some zombies together and do a little walk through town – get the shops to participate and open late. And back then I was like, ‘Hey! 50 people are going to show up! How awesome is that?’ And when 1,500 showed up, I was…surprised,” Moxham said.
Moxham has since been trying her best to make sure that her growing army of the dead is being put to good use: All proceeds from the event, which will cost $2 for anybody who wishes to shamble or walk around, will go to the repair of the Saugerties playground A Small World: a popular spot for kids from the Saugerties Boys and Girls Club chapter that has fallen into mild disrepair and is beginning to splinter.
It hasn’t been perfectly smooth sailing for Moxham in her quest to turn Saugerties into a zombie destination. While the town’s reception of the event has been more positive than anything, she has met her share of naysayers. “There are so many great events in Saugerties; sometimes, not everyone understands the whole zombies-and-horror thing,” said Moxham. “It’s so much fun for so many people who want to show off what they can do, but it can be a hard sell to people who don’t really get it.”
Understandable: The idea of platoons of flesh-eaters showing up for an all-ages death debauch and shutting down the center of town might put off those with a less edgy sense of adventure – especially considering this year’s theme, which plays off a pretty solid blanket-fear: Carnival of the Dead. Coulrophobes steer clear, or visit if you’re willing to face down your fear in its ultimate iteration.
But there’s one group that definitely won’t shy away from the Invasion, and that’s the shops and restaurants of the Village of Saugerties. Take, for example, Constance Bailey, owner of the Hudson Valley Dessert Company on Saugerties’ main stretch. The establishment doesn’t really look like it’s the most zombie-friendly place, with all of its neutral colors, baked goods and smiling attendants; and Bailey, before she cottoned onto the zombie scene, was a little unsure.
“I’m not really a horror-film kind of person. I’m like, ‘Okay, we’re going to keep the bakery open late at night, and people in scary costumes are going to come in. How’s this going to work?’ But a lot of the people who came in were fun; they had great costumes, they had kids with them. I kind of got over myself fairly quickly, because they bought a lot of stuff,” said Bailey.
She said that the event grew on her, and that in the second year of the Invasion, she had a similarly enjoyable experience. “It’s a long day,” said Bailey, “We open early in the morning, and to stay open anything after six o’clock is a hardship. But the atmosphere is so festive, and with the music on the street, it doesn’t feel like working overtime. It felt like a little after-work party.”
According to Moxham, the primary sponsors of the event will be Saugerties-based businesses the Village Apothecary and the Computer Guy; Village Pizza, Mirabella’s, the Dutch Ale House, Lucky Chocolates, the Main Street Restaurant and the Hudson Valley Dessert Company all have their hats in the sponsorship ring, too. Vendors at the event will include Spyda Adams, a fantasy image sculptor; Cantine Haunted Estates, a Saugerties-based haunted house; and Spray Blood, which touts itself as “the only non-toxic, non-flammable aerosol spray blood.”
Tigeriss (formerly Tiger Piss, if anyone was wondering where they went) will be performing on Main and Partition, Voodelic will put on their famous blacklight show at Dave’s Coffee House and Wine Bar, and sword-swallowers, stiltwalkers and magicians will be lining the streets, along with the zombies and other malevolent spirits. Most restaurant sponsors will be offering up zombie-themed treats.
All together, Moxham has assembled a pretty substantial spread for the 2013 Invasion. But she has higher aspirations for her hometown horrorfest: “I want to make it a whole-weekend thing in the next few years.” Ideally, she said, the festivities would kick off with a zombie 5K: a dark twist on the standard race in which zombies chase down runners, and those who are caught become zombies. The 5K would roll into the traditional Village Invasion zombie walk, which would precede an independent horror film festival held, potentially, at Saugerties’ Orpheum Theater.
But that’s all conjecture. And even if the Saugerties Invasion doesn’t turn into a three-day horror bacchanal, Moxham is dealing with an event of a gravity that she never expected. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have expected, like, a crowd of 5,000.” Not in her wildest dreams. She never said anything about her nightmares.