Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Reanimating the downtown zombies

Organizers hope the centerpiece of Fright Night shuffles along


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published October 10, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

Almost one year ago, the unthinkable happened.

Fright Night’s Zombie Walk was canceled because of high winds and related weather.

“We battled winds in the 45 mph to 55 mph range,” said Rick Zolman, events & programming manager for the Downtown Improvement District. “It got to the point where we were about 45 minutes from the walk and there was this cell of rain — sleet as it turned out — that we just didn’t want to get into. So we made the decision based on the information we had to cancel the Zombie Walk.”

All dressed down with no place to go, the assembled zombies were mortified – which is to say, they were re-mortified.

Hundreds at Zombie Walk

The Zombie Walk has become the centerpiece of Fright Night, a Halloween-themed festival established by the Downtown Improvement District in 2007.

The Zombie Walk, a chance for costumed and cosmeticked participants to reenact the some of the less gruesome scenes from their favorite zombie films, was added in 2008.

Because Zombie Walk was cancelled last year, Zolman expects attendance at this year’s undead shufflepalooza (happening Oct.19) to be robust.

“People are going to say, ‘I didn’t get to participate last year,’” he said, “so they’re going to come out and get their Zombie Walk on, as they say.”

The most recent attendance figure for the Zombie Walk is 9,000 and for Fright Night as a whole is 14,000 to 15,000, Zolman said.

“It’s my favorite event,” he said. “It’s amazing from the creativity standpoint. Folks are very into it and the creativity is unbelievable.”

Shambling one’s way through downtown while pretending to be a zombie is a different experience than it was 11 years ago.

Downtown evolves every year, so there are always new municipal improvements to make a zombie’s cadaverous heart swell with pride (rather than what it usually swells with: putrefaction).

Down at the river

New municipal improvements mean new Fright Night features.

This year, Promenade Park — downtown’s new waterfront gem — is getting involved.

The park is hosting an interactive murder mystery based on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart.

“This is something that they’re going to do as an ongoing event as a part of Fright Night,” Zolman said. “Promenade Park is beautiful and amazing and world class. So for them to hop on board Fright Night, it’s very exciting.”

It is not at all quixotic to imagine what role The Landing, currently being revamped, will play in future Fright Nights.

Magic at the Embassy

It’s not just new downtown players that are making Fright Night news this year. It’s also some of downtown’s most venerable inhabitants.

The Embassy Theatre will be hosting four European musicians who tour under the title Champions of Magic.

They’re escape artist Fernando Velasco, close-up magician Kayla Drescher, mind reader Alex McAleer, and comedic illusionists Young & Strange.

McAleer said he prefers playing for American audiences because they’re more demonstrably enthusiastic than British ones.

“Audiences in the U.S. are way more ‘up for it’ than back home,” McAleer told the Spokane Spokesman Review. “In the U.K., people tend to be a bit more cynical, whereas here you guys are ready for a good night from the start.”

Rickard Young said they know they are passing a love of magic down to younger generations every time they perform, so it adds a bit of urgency to what they do.

“We are also aware every night that there is probably a little kid out in the audience who has been looking forward to the show for a few months,” he said. “Maybe the tickets were on the refrigerator door and he or she looked at them each day and was counting down the days or weeks or months until the show. It’s why we always give 100 percent every single night. It would be rude and arrogant not to.”

MOre for Families and adults

DIA Fort Wayne, Fright Night’s take on Dia de los Muertos, will move to the Grand Wayne Center from USF Performing Arts Center due to a scheduling conflict, according to Zolman.

DIA Fort Wayne is one of the more recent additions to Fright Night and one of the more ingenious.

Fright Night has benefited greatly from an infusion of Mexican culture: music, food, dancing, and reflections upon departed friends and family members.

The Grand Wayne Center will also be the site of “Rise of the Villains,” an opportunity for kids to interact with their favorite comic book, movie, and fairy tale villains without the fate of the world hanging in the balance for one day, at least.

Like the Grand Wayne Center, the downtown branch of the Allen County Public Library knows what pop cultural characters resonate with kids at this time of year. It is offering a Scooby Doo-themed mystery for kids to solve.

And Cinema Center knows what pop culture figures resonate with adults.

At a time in history when books by Stephen King, and movies and TV series based on books by Stephen King, have never been bigger, Cinema Center will be screening the 1984 version of Pet Sematary.

Add to the aforementioned offerings roughly 30 other family-friendly and adult-oriented events happening throughout the day on Oct. 19 and what you have is a delightfully overstuffed Fright Night. See the entire calendar on the next two pages.

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