Seven years ago, a group of a dozen people pioneered the first Zombie Walk in Welland. What began as no more than a few friends with some creative time on their hands, and a desire to do something a little different, albeit considered weird and gruesome by some, slowly grew in size and scope over the years to eventually encompass the imagination and resources of the local media and photographers, organizations, businesses, and especially the community. A truly grassroots event that is the Welland Zombie Walk is now a tradition in Welland’s downtown. This is the result of the work of a few volunteers donating time and effort, local businesses sponsoring the event (through either promotion, support with efforts and use of resources, or by the donation of goods and services to act as costume prizes), and larger organizations like the Downtown Welland BIA and the City of Welland. Besides the lure of a family-friendly fun evening that receives much local attention, this is also a testament to the next greatest resource our community has to offer besides the Recreational Waterway: social capital that may be achieved through civic engagement.
The inspiration for the initial event started years ago by a few friends was made in response to a feeling by many that many in the community at the time had little to offer its citizens. Years of the declining local industries and lack of jobs not only affected the economics of this city, but also the socio-economics: those that had few dollars, had little to do. Many would complain about not only the lack of income locally, but also the lack of things to do in spare time, with or without money. It was under these circumstances that a few in this community did find something to do, and that cost very little expense. Although initially a very tiny event, it grew immensely within a year, with over a hundred participating, and organized with no budget and very little organizational governance. It did not stop there: as the years went on, the event encompassed the idea of accepting donations of items for local charities such as food banks and pet shelters, of encouraging local businesses to contribute products or services to be awarded as prizes to entice more participation, and the local media quickly caught on, also affecting the participation of the community. To this day, this event still has no official budget, no committee behind it’s planning, yet encompasses many different people at many different levels within our community. It has maintained an attendance of around two to three hundred participants each year, and continues to be a much-anticipated event each October. Of special note, at least half of the zombies who participate in the walk each year are under the age of 18. This is what has especially contributed in the attendance numbers and to the event’s success.
Many new ideas for events that not only support the locals but are created and organized by locals seems to be a growing trend in Welland, including the immensely popular and new event of Welland FloatFest which not only attracted hundreds of participants, but also gained a Guiness World Record. A desire for inclusive, fun ways for members of the community to get out and explore and enjoy their community in new ways has become a growing trend. People are enjoying the neighbourhoods of Welland again, especially its downtown.
Who would’ve thought seven years ago that the undead would help bring some life back to the city?