On Saturday, Kinta Dowdell will transform himself into a zombie for the ninth time when he attends Fright Night.
“I just love doing the Zombie Walk every year,” he said. “When we first started going to Fright Night, my daughters were like five and six years old. We stood in line and got their faces painted. And they enjoyed it so much that we bought our own makeup and I did it for them for Halloween that year.”
Dowdell has perfected the makeup, even branching out and recreating zippers or making it appear as though a pencil is sticking out of his face. Just as his zombie look has evolved, so has Fright Night itself.
This year, nearly 40 activities — most of them free — are planned for the 11th annual event, starting as early as 9 a.m. There’s something for everyone, including several new attractions.
“We came up with the tag line, ‘A Night to Dismember,’ and it just stuck,” said Rick Zolman with the Downtown Improvement District, which organizes Fright Night. “This is my favorite event of the year, for sure. People are so engaged. It’s just an awesome place to be.”
From not-so-spooky family-friendly activities to live entertainment to the popular Zombie Walk, most of the action happens on or near the plaza at the Allen County Public Library.
The day kicks off with scavenger hunts inside the library. Which Witch Is Which is especially for kids; the Zombie Attack is recommended for ages 13 and up.
Starting at 10 a.m., the Botanical Conservatory celebrates all things pumpkin with fall crafts, activities, and games. Find out whether pumpkins float or sink, learn how they’re grown, and paint your own mini pumpkin. Looking for a photo op? The Punkin’ Path will be decorated with pumpkins, gourds, bales of straw, and gnomes. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children 17 and under.
New to Fright Night is the Monster Dash 5K Fun Run/Walk, hosted by UAW Local 2209. The fundraiser for Fort Wayne Trails starts and ends at the historic Freimann Square. Costumes are encouraged. The registration fee is $25 for adults and kids are free with an adult.
Also new is the Cinema Center’s Vampire Madness. Vampire-themed movies will be shown all afternoon and evening. Tickets are $5. A special-effects makeup designer will also be there with tips on transforming yourself into a vampire.
If you’d rather stick to being a zombie, T.A.G. Art has you covered.
“It’s really a bit of an assembly line of face painting. We usually have 8 to 10 artists out there,” T.A.G. Art owner Troy Ganser said. “We’ve even expanded some over the years so that we’re able to do about 700 people in one afternoon. That’s about one every 20 seconds. It’s pretty basic stuff like fake blood and hollowed out eyes. We can do more elaborate art, of course, but that takes much longer so we aren’t able to do it that day.”
Be sure to capture your look at the free First Federal Savings Bank Photo Booooth. Watch extreme pumpkin carving demonstrations, or challenge your friends to the Mad Ants Trick-Shot-Toe, which is a cross between basketball and Tic-Tac-Toe. There will also be live performances including two bands, the Madam Ant dancers, a brain eating contest, and more. Dancers from K. Monique’s Studio of Dance will take the stage for the seventh year in a row.
“We love the opportunity to perform and get involved in the community,” owner Kristin Thompson said. “This is a great event for family to come together and have a day full of activities and fun where they can dress up, play games, and, at the same time, experience a little bit of downtown Fort Wayne.”
DIA Fort Wayne’s Day of the Dead/Dia de Los Muertos Festival will take place at the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center on West Berry Street.
“The idea for this came from a Day of the Dead festival I went to in California called Dia San Jose,” organizer Salvador Soto said. “We had about 3,000 attendees in Fort Wayne last year and are preparing to double it this year. My hope is that in five years we become the largest Day of the Dead festival in the Midwest.”
Beginning at 11 a.m, free activities include calaca/calavera face painting, live music and a photo booth. An evening celebration starts at 6 p.m. and features a Lucha Libre wrestling match and Madrigal: The Premier Carlos Santana Tribute Band.
“We wanted to keep the cost low,” Soto said. “Tickets are just $5 or and VIP tickets are $20. We couldn’t do this without our sponsors, Sweetwater, Parkview, Nipsco and Saint Francis. It’s a true community partnership with them, us, and the Downtown Improvement District.”
For most, the highlight of the day is the Zombie Walk, which starts at 5:30 p.m. Organizer Rick Zolman estimates about 10,000 people take part in the event, which winds through downtown.
If you can sing, dance, or tell a great joke, sign up to compete in the inaugural Zombies Got Talent. The show is at 3 p.m. but you must sign up in advance by calling 421-1255.
If you’d rather watch others perform, attend Phantom of the Organ at 4 p.m., where you’ll hear spine-tingling music played on the mighty pipe organ at Trinity Episcopal Church.
As the night winds down, dare to be scared at The History Center. Go to the building’s basement for a visit to the old jail, where you can go behind bars, take your very own mug shot, and get a glimpse of the decayed fragments of General Wayne’s actual coffin. Tours run from 5-9 p.m. and are $3 per person.
As for Kinta Dowdell, he plans to be there again this year, decked out in his finest zombie costume.
“It’s just a great place for the family to go and celebrate everything that downtown Fort Wayne has to offer,” Dowdell said. “It makes me proud of my city.”