Bloody, pale-skinned zombies seeking human flesh take over the streets of Key West on Sunday, Oct. 19 for the annual Zombie Bike Ride.
“People look forward to it every year,” said event organizer Marky Pierson. “The level of bike decorations and costumes and the work people do is incredible. Everybody tries to outdo themselves, year after year.”
The event started with 70 people dressed in raggedy clothes and covered in fake blood six years ago. In 2013, the bicycle parade was estimated at 7,000 participants, making it the largest event in Key West next to Fantasy Fest and New Year’s. It’s so big, it has even attracted the attention of national media and the Keys’ Tourist Development Council.
“I wanted a celebration of bike culture. It is a biking town and I love that so I partnered with Evan Haskell and Chris Needham with We Cycle Bikes and the first thing we did were the Rock ‘n’ Roll Bike Rides,” said Pierson, explaining the genesis of the Zombie Bike Ride. “The idea was just to have fun, wear costumes and go on a bike ride, promoting the use of bicycles over cars as transportation.”
Rock ‘n’ Roll Bike Rides were rides with just a handful of people and five booming tricycles bumping music in the summertime. When somebody suggested a Halloween ride, the Zombie Bike Ride was born.
Pierson said he is not a zombie movie fan, per se, but he is a huge fan of Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico. A trademark symbol of the holiday is the “sugar skull” and all of the Zombie Bike Ride promotional materials feature a sugar skill design created by Pierson.
“I love the Halloween spirit and I love the art, mysticism and supernatural celebration of Day of the Dead. It’s fun,” said Evan Haskell of We Cycle Bikes. “I usually dress up and walk into whatever face painting booth is available. I can’t believe how much the event has grown.”
Pierson also puts together the Cow Key Channel Bridge Run, the Tutu party with Chris Shultz and the Key Lime Pie Festival with Paul Menta.
Due to traffic jams in years past and other safety concerns, the Zombie Bike Ride route has changed in 2014. The pre-ride zombie land festivities will be at Fort East Martello on South Roosevelt Boulevard and will feature a live concert by Flow Tribe, a haunted tour, a kid zone, food and drink vendors and 20 artists to do participants up like ‘real’ zombies.
There is no car parking at Fort East Martello. Participants are encouraged to arrive at the staging area on a bike, be dropped off with bikes in the designated area, walk, or take public transportation. The Zombie Bike Ride starts at 6 p.m. and the route goes along South Roosevelt Boulevard passing Saluté On the Beach’s official parade watching venue. Next the ride turns down Duval at the Southernmost Mansion. The 100-300 blocks of Lower Duval Street will be blocked off for the Zombiefest Street Party.