NEW PORT RICHEY — The living dead took over downtown downtown’s taverns last Friday night for brains and booze during the city’s first “zombie pub crawl.”
The event was part of its annual Halloween festivities, dubbed “Hollywood Horror Night Part II: The Walking Dead” and organized by Greater New Port Richey Main Street.
Grand Boulevard was overrun with abandoned vehicles, graffitied “Atlanta has fallen” signs and characters from AMC’s hit television show “The Walking Dead,” based on a long-running comic book series by the same name. The show follows a group of survivors of a global zombie outbreak as they navigate their new post-apocalyptic world overrun by flesh-hungry corpses.
Locals were able to purchase a $10 wristband at the “hospital morgue,” down a narrow alley on Grand Boulevard and marked with day-glo signs warning “beware,” “Don’t open, dead inside” and “keep out.”
The undead and zombie hunters alike were then given a map of participating pubs where they could get a test-tube shot of a ghoulish drink dreamed up especially for the event.
At Cocktails, the “Zombie Cocktail” was a mix of peach schnapps, grenadine and coagulated Irish cream that looked like brains floating in the pink mixture. Other signature drinks at nearby bars included names like “Body Parts,” “TS-19” and “Bloody Vodka.”
Several bar patrons dressed up as bloodied walkers or characters from the the television show and participated in a costume contest with categories like “Best Cast Character,” “Best Zombie Man” and “Best Zombie Woman.” Port Richey couple Craig and Sabrina Zawalich won the zombie man and woman slots with gory outfits showing tire track marks, as if they’d been run over.
“I like zombie stuff and so does my son so we decided to do it together,” Craig said. The Zawalich’s are taking their young son and daughter trick-or-treating this Halloween as a zombie family.
Steve Schurdell, a board member for Greater New Port Richey Main Street, dressed up as Walking Dead leading character Rick Grimes, a former law enforcement officer before zombies took over. Several members of his family dressed up like pregnant Lori, Carl, Andrea, Daryl Dixon, the Governor and the little girl zombie Rick encounters shortly after waking up from a coma.
“Steve said ‘We have to do this. I have my own Sheriff Rick costume,’ ” said Greater New Port Richey Main Street director Judy DeBella Thomas about the group’s decision to go with zombies for this year’s pub crawl theme.
DeBella Thomas said she didn’t watch the series when it premiered in 2010 but started binge-watching episodes recently after the board decided to base its theme on the show.
“I can see where the phenomenon came from,” DeBella Thomas said. “It’s so well-written and the characters draw you into the story.”
Those who bought wrist bands joined their Pasco neighbors as they traveled from pub to pub, each decked out in spooky splendor and costumed bartenders, and judged their favorite morbid cocktail and bar theme.
“We’re moving tomorrow and yet we are still here tonight, if that tells you anything,” said David Berry, who came as a steampunk zombie.
The first “Hollywood Horror Night” was held downtown in 2009 and bars were asked to deck out their haunts in classic horror movie motif. Patrons then judged their favorite theme. The event garnered New Port Richey a Most Outstanding Special Event Award from the National Main Streets Conference.
This year, the horror night was part of the larger “Fall Fest 2013,” which included the movie “Hocus Pocus” at Sims Park earlier that night and a children’s costume contest. The following two days were consumed by “Rocktoberfest,” which featured a pumpkin patch, food and craft vendors, boat tours and Who and Pink Floyd tribute bands.