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All photos by Michael Wada. Courtesy of Logan Crow.

This time last year Logan Crow wasn’t having much fun. In the midst of organizing the fourth Long Beach Zombie Walk—being held for the first time Downtown instead of on Retro Row and now transformed into a Music & Arts Festival (but with more zombie goodness than ever)—he was frustrated with the City of Long Beach, later saying city officials hindered the event more than they helped it.

But things are different in 2012.

“This year I couldn’t be happier,” he says. “[…] I think the City saw that [at the 2011 Zombie Walk] no one ate each other, nothing bad happened. The worst thing you could say about it was that there was a lot of trash afterwards (which I regret and which won’t happen again); but it was a smooth event. And moreover, just like it had done for 4th Street, it brought money into the [area]. There were businesses that were just packed all day long. And so I think it finally just became embraced, which is awesome. And the relationships that were frustrating last year […] I feel have taken a 180-degree turn. It’s been great talking to the City, and the DLBA’s been very supportive. And not just supportive, but collaborative. The DLBA’s come up with a few very, very cool ways they want to get involved […] to activate more small-business involvement around Pine Avenue, so that people really know what their [post-event] options are.”

This year Zombie Walk will be an all-day event, taking place not on the streets but on the nine-plus acres of Marina Green Park. Crow is taking advantage of the shift of venue by including two music stages, a massive outdoor screening of Shaun of the Dead, and a beer garden. And with the Long Beach Zombie Walk Website getting over 35,000 views of within last month—to say nothing of visits to the event’s Facebook page—the undead may need all the room we can give them.

We went from one stage to two stages this year,” Crow says, noting that among the musical acts are the Undead Kennedys (a zombie Dead Kennedys tribute band), the Bitchfits (an all-girl Misfits tribute band), the Yeastie Boys (an all-clown Beastie Boys tribute band), and headliner Stolen Babies. “We’ve got a beer garden by Harvelle’s. We’ve got food trucks. We’ve got [movie screening.] You can do that when you have a nice, nine-acre park.”

Long Beach Zombie Walk has come far from its relatively humble beginnings, when in May 2009 Crow decided to add a wrinkle to his Mondo Celluloid midnight screening of Night of the Living Dead at the Art Theatre.

“We thought, ‘Maybe we should throw out a little zombie walk, get people to show up as zombies and have them march down 4th [Street] to the movie theater,” he recalls.

Three hundred eager souls took part. And as Halloween approached, they expressed their hunger for more.

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“When October rolled around, everyone was like, ‘Hey, do it again!'” Crow recounts. “I said, ‘We just did it.’ They said, ‘Yeah, but it’s Halloween now!'”

This time 800 zombies walked, and Crow realized this had to be an annual event. A year later 3,000 bodies staggered down Retro Row.

The growth was the good news. The potentially bad news was that Long Beach Zombie Walk had—at least in the eyes of the City—logistically outgrown 4th Street. Marina Green Park was suggested as a possibility, but Crow balked.

“I was still manic about, ‘No, it must be in the streets! It must be surrounded by businesses!'” Crow says. Thus came version 4.0, which was somewhat confusingly spread out between the Promenade at Ocean Blvd. and Pine Ave. at 6th Street.

Crow feels the combination of the centralization of this year’s event, in concert with the amount of space dedicated to it, will translate into all the zombie goodness—including getting the undead walking the streets.

“You don’t have to put the walk [on the streets],” he says. “You can still have a big event, and the zombies will populate those [business] areas. It will be vibrant, and you’ll have zombies sitting having coffee and eating pizza, and zombies on buses and everywhere without my needing to move them to those areas. […] It’s been awesome collaborating with these businesses [on the question of] how do we get [zombie folk] to other business. […] What happens outside of my event is up to their promotional efforts.”

As a prime example of such efforts Crow points to George’s Greek Cafe, which has been advertising its Zombie Walk after-party, Greek Freak ’80s night, for a month “with a giant zombie canvas. That’s incredible!”

Meanwhile, the Downtown Long Beach Associates has put together Zombie Town, a host of discounts throughout Downtown for all Zombie Walk passport holders.

Crow estimates that last year’s Zombie Walk attracted at least 12,000 people—a 400% jump from 2011—and that this year’s event should attract at least as many.

“I think it’s something people have really started to look forward to,” he says. “I always knew that it could be an institution for Long Beach, because it’s avant-garde, it’s got music, it’s costuming, it’s play—and we have a very eclectic demographic here. So I always knew it would do well here. But I didn’t foresee its becoming the huge, day-long festival that it’s blown up to.”

It’s a lot of work, and with Zombie Walk just two weeks away, Crow is working himself almost to undeath. But he’s happy to be doing so.

“This year it’s been the way it used to be,” he says with a languorous but satisfied sigh, “which is exhausting-fun, not exhausting-dread.”

Long Beach Zombie Walk Music & Arts Festival takes place Saturday, October 27, from 3PM to 11PM at Marina Green, with bleedover into Shoreline Village and even Downtown. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://zombiewalklb.com/.