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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Undead Take Over The Big Top!

Dan Barkasi

On October 23, there was an event at the famed Monroeville Mall (location of the infamous Romero masterwork, “Dawn of the Dead”) that was not to be missed by zombie fans near and afar. It was time for the “Zom-B-Rama” zombie carnival. What exactly is this? Well, it involves a ton of midway-style games with a zombified twist, along with various sideshows and other events.

To participate, visitors purchased coupons to in order to play the games, in which you win tickets to be redeemed for various zombie-related prizes. The setup was absolutely fantastic, with each game booth designed to morbidly fit the theme of a carnival gone undead. All sorts of fun games were there to be experienced. There was a zombie dart game, all with one of the hosts being dressed up as a Mexican zombie, complete with sombrero and a horn, serenading visitors with various mariachi songs.

A graveyard-themed ring toss was an enjoyable attraction, of which yours truly had the most success at out of all of the games. A beanbag toss was another bit of great fun, with the player throwing rubber brains instead of beanbags. There was a hammer game, where the host was most amusing, as well as a plinko game where your ball would fall into one of three skulls.

There was also a duck pond game where you pulled a duck floating in a barrel of water, and you received a prize. I got an awesome fuzzy spider! And the host to the duck pond was absolutely fantastic, as she was playing the part of a very schizophrenic and excitable zombie. Whenever you gave her a coupon to play, gave her the duck once you’ve chosen it, she clapped, jumped and groaned with glee. Her fun approach to hosting her game was clearly one of the highlights of the carnival.

Another game was a limb toss, where the player threw severed rubber hands through various holes in a neat zombie portrait. The host was also dressed as Snow White – a zombie Snow White, of course!

Near the dart throwing and hammer games was a captured zombie, placed in a cage. That didn’t stop him from trying to munch on passers by, however, as a frequent call for “brains” was uttered. Hilariously, he also screamed “tortilla” at the previously mentioned Mexican zombie. Great stuff, for sure!

There was also a sideshow act that was quite entertaining – a zombie magic show! This consisted of two zombie magicians pulling a rabbit out of a hat. And, well, the rabbit was in high demand, if you get my drift. The act ended in both hosts fighting each other for a bite of the rabbit. Learn to share, methinks!

A zombie-kissing booth lingered nearby as well, if anybody wanted to get an infectious smooch. A ping-pong ball toss was also included, with the player attempting to toss a ping-pong ball into a cup. Said cup was in a rubber brain, floating in a pool. Not too easy, as I certainly failed on this a few times!

Whenever you were done playing the games, you went to the prize redemption booth to turn in the tickets you’ve won for prizes. There were a lot of cool prizes to be had, including rubber brains, zombie stickers, action figures, etc. I got myself a cool “Machete” figure from “Land of the Dead.” Not too shabby!

The grand prize available was a gigantic stuffed teddy bear – aptly named Zom-Bear – who was completely zombified in the best way. To get this gem, it would require winning 200 tickets. Not impossible, but not easy either! We only got about a quarter of the way to that mark, but a lucky person (or a recently risen zombie with a penchant for carnival games) certainly must have gotten that many tickets and walked away with this unique piece of memorabilia.

Of course, there were a few celebrity guests wandering around the event. Most prominently, star of the original “Dawn of the Dead” Ken Foree was there, mingling with fans and zombies alike, and taking plenty of pictures and signing a lot of items. Mr. Foree is always a pleasure, and it was great to see him here having a good time. Also in attendance was Leonard Lies, aka “The Machete Zombie” from “Dawn of the Dead.” His role here was his making of a documentary film titled “Zombie Culture,” based on just that. Mr. Lies was also a judge for the costume contest (hosted by Ken Foree), along with David Crawford – who played Dr. James Foster in “Dawn of the Dead” – and Joe Shelby and Nick Tallo, also featured in “Dawn of the Dead.”

“Zom-B-Rama” was a phenomenally run event where everybody was having a great time, with plenty of fun things to do and great people to meet. The games were well-executed and fun to play, and all of the zombie volunteers made sure that everybody had fun and were in the zombie spirit. The zombie carnival was an inspired idea, and it was great to have an event that was in the Monroeville Mall, with this years’ annual zombie walk curiously being moved to another location in Pittsburgh. With any hope, this event becomes a tradition.

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