Wild Zombies down in New Orleans: Z-Day 5K and Festival

Party with the living dead on Saturday, September 21st, at the Z-Day 5K and Festival. Just remember — run fast. Photo: Infrogmation of New Orleans (Flickr)

NEW ORLEANS, September 20, 2013 — Could a more perfect — and terrifying — combination exist than the Southern horror trifecta of Zombies, mud, and New Orleans? The creators of the Z-Day 5K and Festival, occurring on Saturday, September 21st, think not.

The monsters just can’t wait until Halloween to infest 5000 Williams Boulevard at Laketown Park in Kenner, Louisiana, craving the brains of runners and festival goers as well. The ghastly celebration begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., with the festivities focusing around the 3.1 mile course and the funk rock music of local bands.

The event guarantees constant activity, even with the shuffling masses of living dead. From the time of opening to around 4 p.m., separate heats of racers will be sent into Zombie territory. An expected 4,000 to 8,000 participants will undergo the horror of being pursued by a legion of flesh eaters through physically demanding obstacles.

Armed only with sneakers and two flags to indicate the entrant’s status as human, the goal of the competition is to reach the finish line with at least a single flag remaining. Racers will be permitted to complete the circuit without the flags, but will be considered, “infected,” and will not collect a “survivor” care package as a victory prize.

The Z-Day official website, nolazombi.com/z-day, classifies the challenges according to exposure to blood, mud, or the Zombies themselves. The categories mix and match in creative ways, like the obstacle, “Into Darkness,” which incorporates all three hazards as runners clamber through a pitch black tunnel. Anticipate swimming through gorges of muck, encountering barbed wire and thick netting, and climbing a variety of barriers. One element sure to force true Southerners out of their comfort zones is the snow — indeed, “The Cold Low Down” features a bank of sleet to crawl through.

Yes, there will be food! (Photo: Sheba Also / Flickr)

Yes, there will be food! (Photo: Sheba Also / Flickr)

For those who fantasize about living their worst nightmares, the Z-Day 5K offers a two-hour position as a Zombi, complete with professional make-up. NOLA Zombi, the sponsors for the event, insist the unfamiliar spelling — without the “e” — is correct, according to traditional Voodoo culture.

In preparation for the race, every Zombi undergoes cosmetic application that lasts around half of the shift. An hour will then be spent on the course, hunting competitors. However, the race is not an outright apocalypse — Zombies are forbidden to touch any limbs, just the flags. In addition, the obstacles are considered off-limits from invasion. Other safety regulations include a 13+ age limit, not only for the rotting dead, but for racers as well.

Both runners and Zombies pay during registration for an event t-shirt, shuttle services, admission to the music festival before and after the race, and a free beer for the over-21 participants. All parking, which will be located at 4545 Williams Boulevard, outside of the Pontchartrain Center and the Treasure Chest Casino, is free.

The monsters will be charged $45.00 for their participation, while the runners will purchase packages amounting to $75.00 and a $5.00 personal insurance fee. However, the entrants not only receive the listed benefits, but military dog tags and a runner’s bib. The website also offers a 50 percent off promotional code for last minute registrants to take advantage of.

Booking should take place as soon as possible, as the runner registration is currently 93 percent full and the Zombi registration is 87 percent.

The fee for festival goers who don’t run is $20.00. It can be paid on the website ahead of time. The event will include an assortment of food vendors from the area and, as is typical in the Big Easy, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options will be provided. Coolers will not be allowed inside the festival site and the use of cash, rather than debit and credit cards, is encouraged.

Don’t think that the music festival will be any less impressive than the race. The entertainment for the day includes six bands from the New Orleans area, with headliners reported as Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes and Flow Tribe. Proud of their funk rock roots, the two groups of musicians are sure to bewitch the crowds with their catchy beats. Starting the day off will be an hour of the rhythms of Tryal and Error, followed by half-hour performances by Little Freddie King, Hot 8 Brass Band, and The Stooges Brass Band.

Zombi-themed contests, like Head Bowling and Arm and Leg Throwing, will commence between musical acts on stage. It would not be a true undead celebration, however, without intestine and brain eating competitions. Those attending should prepare for the possibility of blood and guts, even outside of the race. Conveniently, the Z-Day Festival will be selling event t-shirts alongside the other vendors for those not participating in the race.

The organization in charge may promote the living dead, but they are certainly not heartless. A cut of the profits will be donated to the Orleans and Jefferson Parish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as NOLA Zombi is in fact a local association. Not only have they planned the Z-Day 5K and Run, but they also led the “Frenchmen Street Invasion,” an evening of visiting different bars in Zombi attire. They assembled their own band of flesh eating fiends, called “The Marching Dead Krewe,” for Mardi Gras of 2013 and intend to invade many more parades in the future.

In the French Quarter, where zombies can be real. (Photo: JustUptown / Flickr)

In the French Quarter, where zombies can be real. (Photo: JustUptown / Flickr)

The Zombies’ next objective is to target Orlando, Florida, for another Z-Day 5K and Festival, although the date has not yet been publicly announced. NOLA Zombi can be reached for overall information at info@nolazombi.com or, for media questions, at (504) 358-8662.

Kenner is located a mere half hour drive from the French Quarter in New Orleans. For the participants interested in staying the weekend, the weather is forecast to cool down from the usual 90 degree heat to a more autumn-like 82 degrees, with a low of 72. A walk around Jackson Square or a historical tour of the city itself should be more than agreeable with the predicted temperatures.

The Treasure Chest Casino is on the same street as the Z-Day 5K and Festival, so you might spend an evening trying your luck at gambling after a day of running for your life. Both the Hotel Mazarin and the Bourbon Orleans Hotel are fifteen minutes by car from the festival site. The possible chance of rain for the weekend is of no concern to NOLA Zombi, as the competition will continue regardless.

Take the opportunity to party with the living dead on Saturday, September 21st, at the Z-Day 5K and Festival. Just remember — run fast.


Where? 5000 Williams Boulevard at Laketown Park in Kenner, Louisiana, thirty minutes from the French Quarter

When? Saturday, September 21, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

How much? $20.00 for festival goers, $45.00 for Zombis, $75.00 for runners

Contact: E-mail NOLA Zombi at info@nolazombi.com or call (504) 358-8662. Visit their website, nolazombi.com/z-day. 


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Megan Boyanton

Megan Boyanton is a Mass Communications major and freshman at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, Louisiana. She not only writes in the "Out and About Louisiana" column, but hosts a morning radio show on KNWD 91.7 FM "The Demon."

She is an active member of the Phi Mu female fraternity. Raised outside of Seattle, Washington, she has resided in the Deep South for the majority of her eighteen years and has an intense passion for traveling. 

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