This year’s Toronto Zombie Walk is about to become the Toronto Zombie Wake. I know there will be at least 15,000 people who attended last year’s Walk spitting out their brain smoothies (myself included) shouting “What???” “How is this possible?”
How can a successful event that attracts thousands of people into the downtown core, who have never caused any trouble, an event that promotes Toronto and Toronto/Ontario tourism, that puts money into local businesses, that is free of all the corporate brain washing that we get bombarded with everyday, that is happening during the greatest interest of all time in the undead, that is free to the public and everyone, and family-friendly enough to take the kids to, possibly be calling it quits? How???
How could the very first event in the entire world that billed itself as a “Zombie Walk,” that spawned hundreds of other like-minded imitators, be tossing a load of top-soil over it’s many fans and followers?
To put it bluntly, the Toronto Zombie Walk’s demise is perhaps a victim of its own incredible success. In its effort to keep the event free to the public and free of big corporate sponsorship (who wanted to charge money to participants) and who would turn it into something it was never meant to be (an important mandate of its creators), the organizers approached small, loyal sponsors and the government for grants. As mentioned above, this event is all about attracting thousands of people into the downtown core, promoting Toronto and Toronto/Ontario tourism, putting money into local businesses, and keeping it family-friendly enough to take the kids to. But the Toronto Zombie Walk was denied $10,000 last year in grants from various provincial tourism agencies, and despite crowdfunding efforts, it just wasn’t enough to keep the event alive.
I’ll let Stefania Zanini, chief spokesperson for the volunteer-run event explain:
Not getting that grant just put our threshold of what we could handle as volunteers beyond our capabilities,” she said. “We already do a lot of fundraising, but this would be a massive undertaking.
According to Zanini, it costs between $40,000 and $50,000 to run the event at the capacity it has reached now, which covers the administrative costs such as road closures, city permits, insurance, security as well as payment for bands that show up to provide live entertainment.
For almost a dozen years, the Toronto zombie Walk grew from 7 ghouls in 2003 to 15,000 ghouls in 2014. Check out these two contrasting photos:
2003: First Toronto Zombie Walk with creator and organizer extraordinaire Thea Munster (front centre). Photo by Daymon Tucker
2013 Toronto Zombie Walk. ‘Nuf said.
Thea Munster, the ghoul who started the whole thing almost twelve years ago explains the evolution of the expenses:
Over those years we had started paying for permits, insurance, and operations fees as required by the city of Toronto. Our mandate became to keep the walk free and inclusive, so that absolutely anyone could attend and walk with the dead. We felt strongly that restrictions such as entrance fees or participation charges implemented by other zombie walks or horror events severely limited the accessibility to attendees of the walk. Plus, the dead can’t get jobs!
As the participating numbers grew, the event was moved from Trinity Bellwoods Park to Nathan Phillips square.
We were moved to Nathan Phillips Square, the only public space available [big enough] to us in downtown Toronto. With the new space came new costs. We started to apply for grants, and found out quickly that we did not fit into any of the normal grant categories.
With the 2015 Toronto Zombie Walk being put back into the ground, Thea and her fellow volunteers wanted to send it off properly. And in keeping with the real nature of the event, that means a funeral and wake. Initially they planned on having the funeral where it all began, in Trinity Bellwoods Park, but the media got a hold of the story, which alerted the City, who informed the organizers that they would be hit with a $3000 fine if they did so. The city feared 15,000 zombies would show up at the park and it wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of turn out.
It’s a valid concern and I understand their fear, but that won’t happen. Our zombies are pretty respectful.
So the funeral has been moved to The Royal Theatre (608 College St) at 12 noon on Saturday Aug. 29 (the funeral is FREE to the public, as it should be), with the wake being held at the CNE (where you need to pay to gain admission onto the CNE grounds). Zombies are being encouraged to not only come in full zombie regalia, but also contribute mementos of some of their favorite memories of past Zombie Walks to a time capsule at the funeral– which, who knows, might be opened when the apocalypse actually occurs. The first 100 to contribute to the capsule will receive free admission to the CNE.
I’ll finish with a quote from Thea,
I never imagined that I would be running an event so large and so loved by so many people. I would hate to see the event not run due to lack of funds, or be taken over by a corporate entity who does not foster the same love of horror and Halloween, or to have it diminished in its legacy of being a fun, free, inclusive event that absolutely everyone can participate in.
Let’s give the TZW a proper send-off! Remember, you really can’t kill something that is already dead. See you there!
Read the entire history of the Toronto Zombie Walk in Thea Munster’s own words HERE!
Title photo copyright ©2003-2013 Sam Javanrouh