For those attending, dead or alive, Rule No. 1, according to a news release from the Canton Police Department, is “No attacking bystanders.”
Weapons, profanity, alcohol and destroying property are also prohibited for the charity event inspired by AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” and it is asked that all of the fake blood and torn clothing clad participants don’t wear costumes that squirt or spray liquid.
Although the warnings might read a bit like authorities are worried about real re-animated corpses showing up, Canton Police Chief Robert Merchant said they’re just being cautious.
“This is, I think, a big deal for Canton,” said Merchant, who is a fan of the show and has never missed an episode of “The Walking Dead.” “It can put us further on the map of being a good place to come and have events in the downtown area. … But we just don’t know what to expect.”
Merchant added the list of recommendations, which also warns against physical and verbal harassment, was compiled from similar lists other authorities in the area have put out for such events.
While a crowd of zombies taking over downtown Canton could seem intimidating, Cherokee FOCUS executive director and CEO Sonia Carruthers said there shouldn’t be too much to worry about.
“It’s going to be fine,” she said. “Most of the fans of the show are educated adults. We have people bringing their 70-year-old mothers.”
Since the planning for event began months ago, Merchant said his staff has been meeting with FOCUS to make sure all preparations were made. He and Carruthers both said they also recently attended a similar event in Marietta, hoping to get a feel for how Canton’s zombie fest would turn out.
“We’ve got plans in place that in the event that there are issues we can address those,” the police chief said. “But more than anything else, it’s just wanting people to come and have a good time. Cherokee FOCUS has laid out a pretty good schedule of events. We hope that it’s well-attended.”
Merchant said 10 officers will be on hand, as will other public safety workers.
The 10 police officers, though, will technically be off-duty, and the taxpayers won’t be footing the bill for their work to control the event, Merchant said.
“FOCUS is paying for the law enforcement officers to work the event,” he said. “No taxpayer money is being used.”
Officers will also be working traffic for the event, which Merchant said is being handled basically like First Friday.
“Depending on the type of response we get to this event,” he said, “that will determine what if any roads are closed down and how traffic is to be re-routed.”
Parking has also been considered, and specially designated areas have been set up. A parking map is available on the Police Department’s Facebook page.
Merchant added Canton’s Fall Festival, which is from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. downtown today, made the preparations for traffic and parking a bit more complicated. With all the laborious preparations out of the way, Carruthers said she was looking forward to the event, which will also feature a meet-and-greet with Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl on “The Walking Dead.”
“We’ve got belly-dancing zombies. We’ve got a brain-eating contest. And the Chick-fil-A cow has been zombified,” Carruthers said. “How can you beat that?”