Walker Weekend frights for the right to party next weekend 

Christopher Harris I CJ

Zombie fans of all shapes and sizes -- whether they're old enough to remember "Thriller" when it came out or not -- are part of the Pulaski County Walker Weekend festivities, set to return next weekend in Somerset.

To zombie or not zombie? That is the question.

Next weekend, the answer is clear: Definitely, zombie.

The coming week brings the arrival of the 2019 Pulaski County Walker Weekend festivities, which have become a Halloween-time tradition in this area over the last decade. Indeed, this will be the ninth year in some form or fashion of an event featuring people dressed as the undead parading down the streets of Somerset -- the fourth for Walker Weekend as it is now -- and it's still going just as strong as ever.

"It seems to be (a favorite tradition)," said organizer Wynona Padgett, of the Somerset Junior Woman's Club (SJWC), which annually puts on the event. "I hear a lot of people say they're excited about being there and planning to go."

Of course, zombie media has been around for a long time -- in no form more well-known than 1968's "Night of the Living Dead" -- but the local event was birthed following the advent of the popular "Walking Dead" TV show. While that program's craze has waned a little over the years (it's been on the air since 2010), it still has a dedicated viewership of millions, noted Padgett, so zombies aren't quite dead yet -- so to speak.

It is, after all, a month for all things creepy, kooky, macabre, and creative. Here's what to expect organizers to scare up this week:

• The schedule of events starts Thursday evening with the Zombie Survival Dash 3K in Burnside, starting at 6:30 p.m.. Runners and walkers -- the living kind -- will make their way around Lakeshore Drive, starting and finishing at the little roadside park on Lakeshore Drive between Burnside Marina and the south Lakeshore Drive intersection with U.S. 27. Race registration fee is $15 per person. Prizes will be given to the overall male and female winners. You can dress as a zombie to run or "chase" -- volunteers are sought to dress up as zombies and jump out to scare the runners -- or just wear your normal running attire. There will be a costume contest for kids and adults. $25 will be given to the girl, boy, woman and man with the best zombie-related costume.

Sign up at: https://runsignup.com/Race/KY/Burnside/ZombieSurvivalDash2019. Registration at the site starts at 6 p.m. Registration is $15, and proceeds go to aid Relay for Life.

• Friday, the Pulaski County History Walk Ghost Walk will be held at the Somerset City Cemetery. While "ghost" is in the name, it's more about the ghosts of the past -- nothing scary or disrespectful, noted Padgett. As always, volunteer actors who have researched the history of notable Pulaski Countians will tell those departed individuals' stories in character right by their respective graves. Tickets go on sale at 5:30 p.m., the first tour goes out at 6 p.m. Cost is $5 and goes to benefit worthy causes.

• The always-creepy "Scary Stories and Other Tales" will return to the Shine House in downtown Somerset Friday night. Mitchell Stewart Teller, a.k.a. "The Storyteller," will again don his reaper's robe and skeleton face to weave terrifying tales sure to entertain. The event is free to the public. It will be held outside, unless it rains, in which case it will move indoors.

• Also on Friday, the Carnegie Community Arts Center will do a preview of their upcoming Halloween decorative set-up, to view all weekend long, noted Padgget.

• On Saturday, vendors will start coming in at noon, and everyone should be open by 2 p.m. Vendors will include plenty of food trucks offering flavors for every taste, local artists, and non-profits. Time is running out to enter as a non-profit vendor, but applications can be obtained by emailing somersetzombiewalk@gmail.com.

Inflatables will be operated by ladies from the SKYHope Recovery Center, and $5 gets a bracelet that allows a kid to go on inflatables all day, with money benefitting SKYHope.

• The Creepy Cake Contest allows creative bakers to enter their most confounding confections. Categories are for children, amateurs, and professional. Cakes need to be submitted between 2 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. The judging will take place at 3 p.m., which is too late to enter a cake for consideration. Prizes of $50 go to the winner in each category. Sponsor is Monarch Counseling.

Following the judging, alive auction will take place at 3:30 p.m. The cakes will be auctioned off to the highest bidder, with proceeds going to help the Pulaski County Humane Society.

• The Kentucky Blood Center Bloodmobile will be there for the annual Somerset Zombie Walk Blood Drive, parked at Public Square in downtown Somerset, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. The first 25 donors will get a free Somerset Zombie Walk Blood Drive t-shirt by American Screen Printing. All donors will receive a special pair of fun Kentucky Blood Center socks for "Socktober" and a snack. You must be at least 17-years-old (16-years-old with parental consent) to donate. There is no upper age limit. Bring a photo ID.

• The costumes are always the highlight of the Walker Weekend. Preliminary judging of kids' costumes will be from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., with on-stage judging at 4:45 p.m.

"We don't tell any kid they can't be in it, but we want kids with especially good zombie costumes or zombie hunter costumes," said Padgett. This is for children up to age 12.

Meanwhile, adult costumes will be judged throughout the day. If you know you want your costume to be considered, visit the SJWC information booth, but SJWC volunteers will be going out and checking out costumes throughout the afternoon, and will give notice of consideration to those they think stand out. Those selected will go on stage at 6:30 p.m., to let the audience jidge by applause. Best male and female costumes are awarded a $50 check.

But be careful how you accessorize -- absolute no weapons, real or simulated -- will be allowed.

"Everyone wants to have a bat like Negan from 'Walking Dead,'" said Padgett, "but unless it's a rubber bat, you just can't bring it. Someone could get hurt."

• Another popular aspect of the even is the "Thriller" dance made popular by singer Michael Jackson. The routine starts at 8:30 p.m. in front of the Virginia Cinema on East Mt. Vernon Street and moves down the street to the square. Britani Shoemaker of Pep & Pizzazz Dance Studio will offer a refresher in the routine at 8 p.m., for anyone who wants to join in, of any age.

"It's probably one of the most fun things," said Padgett, "to see that coming down the street."

• The actual "Zombie Walk," which sets the costumed characters loose on the streets of Somerset, follows the "Thriller" dance. It starts at the back part of the Judicial Center plaza, goes up Rosewood Avenue, turns at College Street by the old Food Fair, then comes back down East Mt. Vernon Street to finish around the plaza area.

Unless escorting a small child, participants in the walk are asked to dress in costume -- doesn't have to be a zombie, anything Halloween-appropriate is okay, but the actual walk is for those in character of some kind.

• While the day's event as a whole is free, people are asked to bring a can of food if they are able to benefit God's Food Pantry.

• The appropriately named Graveyard Romeos will providing musical entertainment throughout the day. The Lexington band will do mostly '80s and '90s rock covers and will play three sets.

"It's been a while since they've been (in Somerset)," said Padgett. "People will be excited to have them back."

• On Sunday, the "Power of Pink Family Cruise" honors breast cancer survivors. Cruisers will meet at the Fountain Square and will drive their vehicles -- classic or otherwise -- to Haney's Appledale Farm and Bear Wallow Farm out West Ky. 80 for fun on what should be a nice day. Everyone is encouraged to wear pink. The first 24 breast cancer survivors to participate will be given a special gift. The Kentucky Cancer Program is a sponsor.

Title sponsor of the 2019 Walker Weekend is the Don Franklin Somerset Family of Dealerships.

Padgett notes that there's a lot going on, and the project is a "time consuming" one -- but the community reaction each year makes even being dead tired worth it for the volunteers who make it all possible.

"It's something we think the community enjoys," said Padgett. "As long as they want it and come out and participate in it, we'll still do it."

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