A “punk” zombie terrorizes Ottawa city hall during this year's annual Zombie Walk. Photo: Remi Yuan.
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U of O student helps organize community walk to raise funds for the Ottawa Food Bank

Hordes of the undead lurched from city hall to Parliament Hill on Sunday, Oct. 2 during the 2016 Ottawa Zombie Walk.

This year’s event showcased zombies from all walks of life, ranging from the graphically gory to the whimsical. This includes the likes of zombie nurses, punk zombies, disemboweled construction workers, murderous clowns, zombified stick figure families, as well as demons, zombie hunters, and a handful of Ghostbusters.

“There’s a lot of creativity that goes into zombie costumes,” says organizing committee member Christine Houle, who is in her final year in the University of Ottawa’s bachelor of visual arts program.

Prior to the start of the trek, walkers congregated behind city hall, posing for photos and competing in ghoulish games such as Zombie Tic Tac Toe. Several participants were also spotted patronizing the nearby Mac and Cheese festival, because members of the undead can’t be expected to subsist on brains alone.

The Ottawa Zombie Walk was founded in 2008 by a small group of U of O students, inspired by similar walks in the States.

“These 25 participants decided ‘Hey, we’ll just do this one in Ottawa, since it is the nation’s capital,’” explains Houle. “And ever since then it just grew bigger and bigger.”

In the past, the event almost became a victim of its own success.

While the early walks were small enough that the undead hordes could be contained to sidewalks, within a few years the attendance had swelled to include “thousands of zombies,” requiring the organizers to register the event as a parade and purchase permits and insurance. After a major sponsor pulled out a month prior to the 2014 Walk, the organizers set up a GoFundMe page. Eventually, the generosity of the Ottawa community helped ensure the dead would walk again.

“A week before (the event) there was an anonymous donation of $5,500,” recounts an emotional Houle.

This year’s walk was sponsored by a number of local businesses, with Audrey’s Costume Castle—co-owned by Zombie Walk organizers Tracey and Brad Craig—providing a donation of $2,500. The organizers are seeking a grant from the provincial government for future walks.

Despite their own funding obstacles, the organizers place emphasis on giving back to the community. Over the last few years, the Ottawa Zombie Walk has raised literally “tonnes” of food and thousands of dollars for the Ottawa Food Bank.

For Houle, the current zombie craze makes the walk a perfect opportunity to raise funds for the community. “It just works perfectly, because a lot more people tend to want to join in.”

What does she think causes the enduring popularity of zombies?

“I think it has to do with the fact that a zombie apocalypse is a possibility—it could happen,” Houle laughs. “It just adds to that fun aspect of ‘It could be reality, but let’s just do it while we can, to have fun with it.’”