The Ottumwa Courier

June 21, 2013

Ottumwa prepares for zombie invasion

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — A herd of zombies could soon be shuffling its way through Ottumwa.

Wapello County Public Health Clinical Director Lynelle Diers said the idea, which is in its preliminary stages, is to launch a zombie-themed day this fall.

"We are wanting to coordinate it with the other activities going on around that time, like the Haunted House [Nightmare on Third Street] and Pioneer Ridge has haunted hikes," Diers said. "The whole idea is not to compete against the other activities but to enhance and add to them."

The goal is to bring people to downtown Ottumwa and to make the event as cost-effective as possible for families, said Community Transformation Grant coordinator Joni Elder.

"Several of us began talking about, why can't our community have things like the bigger communities have?" Elder said.

Diers asked the same question after returning from the Glow Run 5K in Des Moines in April.

"We want to try to make it accessible to everyone within the community and the area because we'd like to see a lot of people from the whole southeast Iowa area come to participate," Diers said.

There is no mission and no fundraising goal, Elder said. The event harkens back to public health's community transformation project, which is working on developing activities accessible to the entire population.

"We want to have it be an inexpensive, family fun event," she said. "It will be mostly downtown to highlight downtown and get that popularized. And it's to build partnerships. There are a lot of solo activities going on, and I think it's important to build partnerships to create bigger, better events."

There are several ideas brewing for the event, which is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 26, the same day as the First Resources hay rides.

Possibilities for the day include a 5K, scavenger hunt on the trails system, flash mob in Central Park set to "Thriller," pumpkin painting and other crafts, costume contests, flea market, musicians, "chalk your walk" and more.

"It's really in the building process," Elder said. "If anyone has ideas and wants to jump in, it's going to take lots of hands, hearts and heads. People have got to be passionate about what they want their community to look like, jump in there and get their hands dirty."

A brainstorming and planning meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Indian Hills' Rural Health Education Center conference room. The meeting is open to the public, Elder said.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Joni Elder at 641-682-5434.

— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.