Ashtoberfest 2011

The fifth-annual Ashtoberfest brought un-dead fun to nearly 3,000 attendees at a very different, and at first for some an unwelcome, venue, the Biltmore Square Mall. All doubts about the venue seemed to fade as corpses of all ages were seen shambling around the food court, the stores and shopes, and the parking lot.

For those living under a rock, or in a grave, for the past 5 years you might have missed Ashtoberfest grow from a meager group of merry-makers doing the ‘Thriller Dance’ downtown, through a horde heckling Sarah Palin supporters at the civic center, to an unofficial pub crawl, and an almost official downtown zombie walk/festival. The venue at the mall allowed enough space for Ashtoberfest to feel like a full-grown festival.

There were several stages and zombie events around the mall. The main stage, next to the Cinebar Theater featured music. Not far away was a quiz/game show stage with trivia questions taken from horror movies and games. Inside the mall, celebrity judges watched the littlest zombies show off their costumes. Inbetween, and all around, were booths, displays, make-up tables, prizes, victims, and lots of places to rest and watch. Three barrels of food were collected for Manna Food Bank, and the (ahem) Blood Drive had to turn people away.

West Asheville resident, Dan Burrello, chief cheerleader and organizer of the events turned to the mall after feeling downtown and the City of Asheville were not interested in over 2,000 citizens with money spending time and that money there. “The mall was very interested,” Mr. Burrello relates, “They were fantastic to work with. Plus, if you look at your classic zombie movies, malls were heavily represented. It is like a return to our roots.”

The evening ended in movies, Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

What’s up for next year? “Who knows?” Mr. Burrello says, “Lots of people thought this was a one-off event five years ago. We will see.”

I can’t wait.