This past weekend's Zombie Crawl on the 16th Street Mall (captured in this slideshow) was a huge success on every level for the bash's founder, Daniel Newman. But that doesn't mean it was cheap. After spending about $2,000 of his own dough making the spectacle truly spectacular, Newman received an additional bill for half that amount.
"Basically, the Downtown Denver Partnership, the guys who manage the mall, without e-mailing us or asking us if we could help clean up, considered all the fake blood to be the same as graffiti and handed it to that department," Newman says. "So we got a little over $1,000 worth of reimbursement charges for graffiti cleanup."
No denying that the Zombie Crawl has grown, increasing in popularity at a plague-like rate. Newman estimates that "the first year we did it, we had about eighty people, the second year about 400. Last year, we had about 1,500, and this year we were expecting in the three-to-four thousand range, and we were up at the high end of that. We were really excited by the positive turnout."
Along the way, Newman did everything he could to play by the rules -- and his interactions with the various government entities with which he coordinated seemed to go well.
"This year, we got a permit for Skyline Park through Parks and Rec, and we corresponded with the 16th Street Mall people again," he says. "They gave us a list of things not to do, and they were very reasonable requests. And the Denver Police were amazingly helpful and actually really funny. This lieutenant sent us a message saying, 'Here's what we ask. Don't use any real weapons, and I hope you guys have fun during your quest for human brains.' Everyone was really cool. They just wanted to make sure we did our best not to make a huge mess, and we definitely didn't."
To that end, the crawlers "had a full cleanup crew out and about the night of and again the next day. And we would have been more than happy to bring everybody back if the people at the mall wanted to clean up anything else. We want everything to be nice and clean and tidy, and I'm a little bummed they didn't reach out to us before charging us."
The size of the fee only increases Newman's frustration. "They said it was for nine hours of using a power washer, and if they're charging us for the entire normal cleanup they would have done anyway, then it's probably a little extreme." Besides, he goes on, "the fake blood comes right off with water. It's very easily washable. Actually, Jell-O and some other things are a lot harder to clean up."
Newman has reached out to the various authorities with an eye toward lowering the costs, but he hasn't received a reply thus far. He also put a "donate" button on the Zombie Crawl website, and "within minutes of tweeting it out, the donations started coming in to help offset the fines," Newman notes. "We're still very far from the $1,000 mark, but it's nice to see that people really do like it. That encourages me to make it work next year and move forward."
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Granted, there could be some changes, including possible sponsorship. Already, sponsors help support various costume contests and the like, and Newman doesn't rule out seeking assistance on a larger scale "as long as it isn't really corporate and lame. I want to make this a really fun, yearly Halloween event for Denver, a family-friendly place to go and be. I do this literally by myself with a few volunteers every year, and it's pretty tough to coordinate and manage it without outside funds -- which I definitely learned this year."
The zombiefication process hasn't leeched all the humanity out of Newman and company. "We're very courteous and we don't want to make any enemies," he stresses. "We do this because we want to make Denver a cooler place, not because we want to break anything and be destructive."
Making this point when he finally chats with the Downtown Denver Partnership, et. al., is job one for Newman -- "but I do have some questions," he admits. "Including, 'How much do you charge kids who drop slurpies on the mall?'"