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Zombies in Paris

What began as a simple pumpkin-carving contest has become a visual feast of the macabre in Northeast Texas
Written by Celestina Blok. Photographs by J. Griffis Smith.

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There's something spine-chilling happening in Paris! It's drawing the undead.

The Paris Zombie Walk

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Makeup booth opens at 9:00a.m., costume contests will begin at 12:15 p.m.

The Zombie Walk will begin at 2 p.m. in front of the YWCA at 308 S. Main St. Admission is free.

Hundreds of zombies, with their slow-moving shuffling, moaning cries, and dragging legs, will descend on the North Texas town of Paris this month for the third annual Zombie Walk. This year’s event, to be held Saturday, October 26, will grow even more fantastical as more than 500 ghouls are anticipated to strut their scary best.

“I saw that larger cities were hosting walks like this,” says Zombie Walk creator and organizer Clint McMillan, a Paris native who has a reputation as a local Halloween hero. (Lines to visit his frightfully festooned home often stretch for blocks on October 31, he says.) “I thought, ‘Why not bring a Zombie Walk to Paris?’”

The event, held in conjunction with the town’s annual Festival of Pumpkins, has turned into an apocalyptic parade through Paris’ historic downtown square. Attendees include rock-star zombies, camouflaged zombies, medical-staff zombies, prom-queen and prom-king zombies, and even families of zombies, from grandmothers to babies, all gathered to grunt and hobble their way through the afternoon. Many are looking to win bragging rights in the event’s costume contest, which is judged not only on appearance but also on authenticity of movement.

“If you want to attend but don’t know what the heck you’re doing, you’re more than welcome to come to our booth and we’ll zombify you,” says Kevin Calhoun, stage manager for Paris Junior College and the Texas Shakespeare Festival. Kevin and his team of theater makeup artists, who are members of the Paris Junior College chapter of Delta Psi Omega, a national honor society for participants in collegiate theater, also provide touch-ups for incoming zombies prior to the walk.

If you’d rather get into zombie mode at home, “You need to start out with the basic white, pale look,” Kevin advises. “Then go into deeper details such as dark splotches and the special scar effects. It’s really in the detail.”

Clint is a devotee of using deconstructed cotton balls and liquid latex to create scars. Kevin agrees, and says you can create convincing open wounds by using liquid latex to adhere tissue paper to your skin. “It looks just like skin falling off,” says Kevin. And be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting ruined, he adds, as theater makeup is tough to wash away.

“The more grungy you look, the better,” Kevin says. “But it’s not as dramatic if everybody comes looking the same, so if you want to wear a suit and a tie, go for it. We can throw blood on your clothes if you’re cool with it.”

(Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

After achieving zombification, perfecting your actual walk is key. Although modern zombie flicks like World War Z and 28 Days Later feature zombies that are fast on their feet, slow and unsteady is ideal for the Zombie Walk, says Dylan Worthey, resident zombie enthusiast and a popular Zombie Walk participant.

“Keep in mind that your body isn’t going to move the same way when you’re a zombie,” says Dylan, who’s drawn a crowd of followers during the walk’s first two years for his traditional zombie portrayal. “You have to have kind of a jerky movement. You’re not going to run in the zombie walk. You’ve got to keep it slow and try to move a little awkward.”

Dylan, who considers himself a “nice zombie,” says his infatuation with the horror genre began as a child when his mother took him to see Alien and then tossed him her old Stephen King novels. He prefers the classic Night of the Living Dead-style of zombies he grew up with, he says, and is now a published zombie novel author.

“For me, it’s about the old-style, slow-moving zombie with a weird contorted body,” he says. “During the first Zombie Walk, I stayed in character for about four or five hours. I kept coming up with different ways to create a comical experience. I would do bounce-backs, almost like The Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy, when I ran into a sign. I would try to make it fun and kind of brainless.”

Dylan started preparing for this year’s event in September. He has plans to bring back a costume he wore during the walk’s first year that involves a face mask, a paintball tactical vest, and garments that he rolls in mud for two weeks.

Both the Zombie Walk and Festival of Pumpkins, which features live music, a petting zoo, pony rides, and festival food, are free to attend. At the Zombie Walk, donations are accepted for makeup-booth services, and funds are also raised during an online auction, which is held prior to the event and draws donations from as far as the east and west coasts. Each year, organizers choose two local charities as beneficiaries; this year’s event supports Meals on Wheels and a program designed to eliminate drunk driving. “One of our most interesting auction items is a personal zombie portrait created by an artist out of New Jersey,” says Clint. “We couldn’t make this happen without all of our volunteers and donors.”

“People come out of the woodwork for the Zombie Walk,” says Dylan. “We’re getting a lot of the younger crowd, too. It’s good to see people come together for such a fun event, even if they have to be with the undead.”


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