In a town overflowing with fun and frivolous events, one such happening is exploding in popularity at an exponential rate.
Organizers of the Fourth Annual Zombie Bike Ride, taking place this Sunday expect to see between 2,500 and 4,000 riders take part in the parade. The first time out, in 2009, drew just 150 such "zombies."
"The ride has gotten so big that it can't actually stop anywhere now, because it jams up," said Marky Pierson, who produces the event, along with Evan Haskell and Chris Needham, of the We Cycle bike shop, on Stock Island. "This year, however, we actually have the road to ourselves. In the past we were limited to the sidewalks, but now we have two lanes all the way from We Cycle down South Roosevelt Boulevard. We also have official police escorts this time."
The Zombie Ride grew out of Pierson's earlier event, the Rock 'n' Roll Bike Ride, which also proved to be popular in bike-loving Key West. That event made a number of stops at area watering holes, such as Salute on the Beach. The parade won't stop at Salute this year, though a beach party will be held there from 4 to 7 p.m. Logistical concerns, prompted by the parade's popularity, have inspired Pierson to cluster the entertainment at the beginning and end of the ride.
"We're going to have a stage and tent at We Cycle, with live entertainment by DJ Cous Cous, beginning at 3 p.m.," Pierson said. "There will be an artist's row, so people can get their faces painted, and bikes will be available for rent. We'll also have a dunk tank, food, and contests for the best costume, and best bike. Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey, who are acrobatic circus performers, will be there as well. The parade will leave at 6:30 p.m."
Six mobile trikes, each with its own sound system and individual play list, will provide a soundtrack to the spooky spectacle, including disco and rock 'n' roll offerings.
The ride will conclude at the "Zombie's Den" (Fogarty's restaurant,) at the corner of Duval and Caroline streets, where the Undead band will play festive tunes.
A number of splinter parties will also take place nearby, at The Porch, the Green Parrot Bar, and Charlie Mac's.
Though the ride is technically free, Pierson said the organizers request online registration, and a $5 donation, to help defray the cost of the event. Six different T-shirts will be available for sale at We Cycle, before the ride departs.
"We're doing this for the town," Pierson said. "And we'd like it to keep it as cheap as possible. There are a lot of expenses associated with the ride, though, and we're trying to recoup some of those costs."
Tourist Development Council Director Harold Wheeler confirmed that the ride is becoming a real draw for visitors to the island.
"We've definitely received a number of comments regarding last year's ride," Wheeler said. "It's a really good event for people to get engaged with. A number of people have told me that they'd come again to take part."
To register for the ride, or for more information, visit http://www.zombiebikeride.com/