By JOSEPH SAPIA
The New Jersey Zombie Walk, an Asbury Park fixture which began seven years ago, is dead.
Founder and organizer Jason Meehan announced the demise on the New Jersey Zombie Walk Facebook page Thurs., Aug. 20.
“Its death was not sudden,” according to the post, “and every attempt was made to revive the deceased.
“Untreated issues and complications, both existing and previously unforeseen, put the event in critical condition early this year. Several unsuccessful treatments led to a terminal diagnosis and this subsequent passing.”
He suggested various contributing causes: the toll of pulling off Zombie Walk; the difficulty in raising funds in more costlier times to keep the event free; personal needs, including becoming a father.
“No way was the city involved in canceling this event,” said Mayor John B. Moor, who said people were interpreting Meehan’s mention of costs as “taking a shot at the city.”
Asbury Park charged Zombie Walk “a little over 4,000 (dollars),” Moor said.
“That’s been a steady number,” Moor said. “I don’t think an outrageous amount. It hit me hard, the city hard, we were being blamed for price-gouging.”
Generally speaking, but not specifically speaking of Zombie Walk, the city charges events for such things as policing, firefighters on hand, cleaning up afterward.
Moor said it appears “there’s more to the story than being told.”
Meehan could not be reached for direct comment, but his post talks about Zombie Walke “funeral services,” tentatively set for Saturday, Oct. 3. Meehan suggested details are being worked out.
“I feel confident an event is going to happen on that day (Oct. 3),” said Jacqueline L. Pappas, executive director of the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce.
Pappas said those involved with Zombie Walk in the past are going to do some kind of zombie event.
“Although the traditional walk is canceled, there is going to be an event,” Pappas said. “It’s in the works. I think they’re planning a New Orleans jazz-style funeral.”
No applications have been filed with the city for an event, Moor said.
The last meeting of the mayor and City Council before Oct. 3 is Sep. 23. For the mayor and City Council to approve an event at the Sept. 23 meeting, an application likely would have to be filed in early to mid-September.
“It (Zombie Walk) was great for the city,” Moor said. “It was a great event.”
Held in October, Zombie Fest was an off-season attraction to a Shore town, Moor said.
“It was a boost to the businesses,” Moor said. “(The cancelation) is a big loss of revenues, which we’re quite concerned about.”
But there is the other event, the one being talked about that is in the planning stage. How will the event, presumably being planned for Oct. 3, differ from Zombie Walk?
“I think the difference is the structured walk, the parade part,” said Pappas, explaining she believes there will be no formal parade from the Boardwalk down Cookman Avenue toward the downtown.
Zombie Walk has attracted 15,000 or more, a combination of participants dressing as zombies and spectators, Pappas said. In 2013, for example, there were an estimated 10,000 “zombies” and 10,000 spectators, Pappas said.
Will the event being planned attract those numbers?
“I think we’ll have to see what happens,” Pappas said.
Meehan said in the post he made the decision to back out of Zombie Walk early in 2015 and, since, “I have been completely unsuccessful in finding a company to manage the event moving forward.”
“No one wants to take the helm,” according to the post.
“I will also eternally be grateful to the Asbury Park Boardwalk for hosting our horde and doing everything possible time and again to minimize what expenses they could,” the post said. “Above all, the Zombie Walk could never have happened without the help of countless volunteers, family and friends who collectively have put in tens of thousands of hours of work year after year to make the event happen, never demanding anything more than the good time that they had being part of the Zombie Walk team.”
As for the future, according to Pappas, “The zombies will still have a presence. I think the zombies love Asbury Park.”