Last year, chlorine gas was released at a con, causing 19 attendees at the Illinois event to be sent to the hospital.
This year, the violence moved to Florida.
You’d probably have to be hiding under a rock to not have heard about the popular zombie walks that have been happening across the country for the past several years. The biggest and arguably the best one, Pittsburgh Zombie Fest, asks attendees to bring a can of food as an admission price, and that gets donated to a local food bank. Running these events with a charity in mind is fairly common, and it shows heart behind the horror.
Many of these events are organized like a block party, with live music, face painting, and vendors. Others are pub crawls, like my personal favourite, the Philly Zombie Crawl. In Minneapolis, their zombie pub crawl is huge, pricey, polarizing..and here to stay. If you’d rather participate in something that resembles a zombie parade, check out Zombiewalk Columbus, which raises money for Ronald McDonald House, or Denver’s zombie crawl, which has also been around for a decade.
So you get the idea. There are lots of people that want to dress up like zombies in outside venues for a little walking dead fun.
Until this year’s ZombiCon.
ZombiCon in Fort Myers, Florida has been going strong for 9 years now, and its organizing group Pushing Daizies, Inc is very focused on its charities. They take food donations for a food bank; their attendees are given the opportunity to donate blood, and their $5 admission fee supports children’s art programs and scholarships. Over 20,000 people were estimated to show up this year – numbers the average convention would envy.
This time, no one’s amused by the violence. Thank heavens.
There’s a lot of buzz about What Happens Next, of course. Do the organizers raise the price and take the event indoors? This was tried a few years ago, according to a response on Facebook, and it reportedly didn’t work very well. (I personally can’t imagine anything than a stadium working for this kind of crowd.) Do the organizers bump up security? They do hire security and have police on site every year. Was the shooter just someone looking for a real-world zombie paintball experience? That’s something that occurs to me, and I really really really hope it’s not the case. Does the reality of this story blur over into other street parties and conventions?
Consider that in 10 years of zombie crawls and such, it looks like this is the first time violence has erupted. It’s having an effect on events in Chicago and West Palm Beach, so it’s not hard to imagine the ripple effect going further. Personally, I hope not. Zombies aren’t my bag, baby, but I love the passion of the people that organize and participate in these events, and – like any fan-driven thing, really – I want to see the geeks win. I mean, really…look at how amazing the ZombiCon attendees were! That’s a level of creativity and fun that has to win out over an ass with a gun.