The skies swirled with dark clouds and screams filled the air as unsuspecting First Friday participants became captivated by something more sinister than art and music.
For the third year in a row, The Zombie Walk of Binghamton successfully assembled and gained a significant following, literally. A half-mile trail of macabre characters could be seen scattered through the Downtown streets from 7-9 p.m. before participating in a “Thriller” dance mob in front of The Lost Dog Cafe on Henry Street.
According to Binghamton University student Samson Widerman, celebrating the undead brought community members and students to life.
“It was really exciting to see the Binghamton community come alive [ironically] for such a massive event,” said Widerman, a junior double-majoring in English and philosophy, politics and law. “Everywhere you went, people were limping and moaning and screaming. It was fantastic.”
Promoted through www.bingspot.com and Facebook, the event was organized by Billy Bardo and Marianne Bauer, who not only make the walk possible but also actively participate each year. Bardo, known to some as “The Mayor” and to others as “The Undertaker,” leads the walk, often riling the zombie participants by giving momentous speeches of undead solidarity.
“Through infection, we have multiplied by legions,” Bardo said, speaking for Bauer, who reportedly had lost her tongue through zombie-related endeavors.
Legions there were. Hundreds of Binghamton area residents attended, the majority wearing fully stylized couture. Costumes ranged from casual wear to more involved outfits, like a Star Wars storm trooper, but one common theme was consistent: blood. Participants were covered in creatively placed open gashes and lesions, and clothing was often ripped, torn and ragged.
“The Zombie Walk seems to keep growing,” said John Kline, a Binghamton area resident who has participated in the event all three years.
While the walk promotes an appreciation for dramatic and gory representations of the undead, it is no anomaly to the families of Binghamton. Children and their parents walked among the hordes, often just as mangled and deranged as the rest.
Rebecca Barkley and her daughter, both residents of Vestal, celebrated the night as their second year participating in the walk.
“It’s something fun to do, to get out into the community and be someone you’re not,” Barkley said while carrying her zombie child.
Barkley’s sentiments perfectly captured the fun of the night; through transforming into bloody, animalistic characters, the participants got a chance to be something only seen in movies and read about in books. The event is a primer for Halloween, but has no age-based conventions. In essence, everyone could trick-or-treat at The Zombie Walk.
“The spirit of Binghamton was in full fledge,” remarked Kyle Acenowr, a junior majoring in environmental studies.
Some especially creative costumes stood out. A seven-foot-tall stilted zombie towered above the crowd, waving her arms around as she lurched forward. Additionally, there were zombie brides and grooms, zombies in wheelchairs and S.W.A.T. teams with full riot gear and realistic weapons.
There were even zombie pets. Jovie and Lola, two small dogs owned by Binghamton area resident Melanie Stein, both participated for their first year in the walk as undead canines.
“It’s going to be a yearly tradition,” said Stein, who stood in front of The Lost Dog Café after the walk, flanked by her brain-hungry Boston Terriers.
The Binghamton Zombie Walk truly brought the community together this year, with a vibrant selection of undead expression, proving for the third time that dressing up and becoming evil-dead entities can be fun and memorable for all walks of life. The event is sure to be a tradition for years to come. And in many ways, the walk is a microcosm of Binghamton itself: residents and students returning from the dead, just like the city they inhabit.