Nightlife: How to herd 30,000 zombies

  • Article by: MICHAEL RIETMULDER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2013 - 10:16 AM

The logistics of the annual Zombie Pub Crawl has become a nearly year-round job for organizers.

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There was very little planning behind the Zombie Pub Crawl’s inaugural bar lurch in 2005. “Like a week before the pub crawl, we did the dry run, which is what we would call it when we would go out and drink at all the bars,” recalled co-organizer Chuck Terhark.

In that year, the undead caravan through northeast Minneapolis drew 150 participants, splattered with fake blood and faux lacerations. Last year’s ZPC took over the West Bank (the annual event’s current hub) and St. Paul’s Midway Stadium, attracting 30,000 people — roughly the population of Brooklyn Center. Suffice it to say, it now takes a little more than a not-so-dry “dry run” a week in advance to put on what has become one of the largest, wackiest bashes in the Twin Cities.

“July is when I remember I had to tell my other job that I couldn’t come in anymore,” said co-organizer Claudia Holt, who works for the nonprofit AccountAbility Minnesota when not scheming apocalyptic parties.

While organizing the ZPC becomes a full-time job in the summer for its brain trust, planning for Saturday’s ninth Zombie Pub Crawl began back in February. The ZPC brand’s five co-owners are joined by a talent buyer and operations managers Peter Lansky (a k a Sovietpanda) and Jon Schober of the Current to help arrange the cerebrum-munching shindig.

Among the planning nucleus, Taylor Carik might have the sexiest job of all — permit guy. Carik oversees the coordination of the myriad permits required to square an event involving 15 bars, a zombie 6.66K Fun Run (of course) and three outdoor music stages with Minneapolis. He says the city has several types of major event classifications that don’t neatly fit their bar-crawl on steroids. “We are none of those, but a combination of them, so it’s very out-of-the-box,” Carik said from ZPC’s mini whiteboard-lined bunker in the northeast Minneapolis gallery space, CO Exhibitions.

While the core organizing team has eight members, day-of help swells into the hundreds. Staffing skipper Claudia Holt said ZPC hires 73 off-duty police officers and taps 145 volunteers, in addition to other paid staffers, to help during the dead-waking bash. Add to that another 30 morning-after (fake) blood cleaners.

Staffing is also an issue for participating bars, like the Acadia Cafe, which hosts an outdoor music stage. “We tell our regular staff you can’t have the night off unless your mom’s dead,” co-owner Juliana Bryarly said in appropriately moribund words.

In years past, the beer cafe has hired about 20 additional workers to accommodate revelers. For the week of the bar’s “best night of the year,” Bryarly said their liquor order is 50 times larger than usual.

Metro Transit is also bracing for a spike in ridership. Spokesman John Siqveland said the Blue Line light rail will be running its larger three-car trains, and extra buses will be deployed in high-traffic areas. There will be significantly more uniformed and plain-clothes Metro Transit police on duty, he said, though an exact number was unavailable.

After spreading to St. Paul the past two years, ZPC 9 is back to being exclusively in Minneapolis. The mayhem stretches from the West Bank to Downtown East, where a roughly 10,000-capacity “Quarantine Zone” has been added in the Star Tribune parking lots.

Over the years organizers have developed a reputation for curating WTF music lineups. This year is no different, between jock-hero ska-rockers Sublime With Rome and Flock of Seagulls in the Quarantine Zone and Trick Daddy, Ying Yang Twins and has-been bumpkin rapper Bubba Sparxxx at the Cabooze Plaza. “People always think we’re trying to bring old bands back from the dead, because of the zombie thing, and I kind of appreciate that,” Terhark said. “That’s not really why we do it. It’s more like, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to have Flock of Seagulls …’ ”

“… open for Sublime,” co-organizer Jonathan Ackerman interjects, sparking laughter among the ZPC brass.

“It’s still funny,” Terhark said. “I don’t know why other people don’t book festivals that way.”

As operations manager Peter Lansky joked, we can’t put a number on how many people have “life-changing” nights at the Zombie Pub Crawl. But we can quantify some of the reanimated antics. Check out this by-the-numbers stat sheet on ZPC.

54,000: cans of “Brain Belt” Premium produced this year.

30,000: “brraaaains”-chanting attendants last year.

105: pounds of veal-brain tacos for Saturday’s brain-eating contest.

50 feet: height of Phil — the world’s largest (and legless) inflatable zombie.

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  • ZOMBIE PUB CRAWL

    When: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sat.

    Where: West Bank and Downtown East, Mpls.

    Tickets: $35-$40; 21-plus. www.zombiepubcrawl.com

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