Dressed in athletic clothes and tennis shoes, prospective zombies gathered at Bloedel Donovan Park, 2114 Electric Ave., to kickoff preparation for this year’s Thrillingham event. The first practice is an important one, where planners frantically organize raffle and donation buckets before the year’s fresh batch shuffle in, ready to get started.
Every year, the event includes a zombie dance mob performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” raising money for local charities. This year’s proceeds are going to Blue Skies for Children, a charity designed to sponsor enrichment programs for underprivileged children in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.
Event planner and performer Diane Simplot said she has volunteered for six years, but this is her first year as an organizer. She vows this won’t stop her from participating in the performance this year, however.
“We have a group of girlfriends and we do a theme every year, a zombie theme,” Simplot said.
Though the first practice has already passed, it’s not too late to rise from the dead as a Thrillingham zombie. Practices and classes are available for volunteers to learn the choreography and meet fellow zombies on Oct. 7 and 14, at 7 p.m. in the community building multipurpose room at Bloedel Donavan Park.
“It’s a cheap way for people who don’t really have a lot of money to give back to a charity.”
Before the main fundraising event, performers can donate to the charity during practices. Some local businesses also contribute to the cause and donate raffle items for performers to win when they donate.
Simplot said each year the planners try to pick a charity that is local and easy for people to relate to.
“It’s a cheap way for people who don’t really have a lot of money to give back to a charity,” Simplot said.
An estimated $3,000 was raised for homeless families at Lydia Place during last year’s Thrillingham event, and Simplot is hoping they can raise closer to $4,000 this year, she said.
The raffle seemed to be the highlight of the night, as sweaty zombies crowded in after practice to hear if they had won.
This year, Thrillingham has the chance to fundraise during The Festival of the Macabre at the Leopold Crystal Ballroom on Oct. 21 and at The Royal Night Club on Oct. 29. Donation buckets will be set out and volunteers will perform “Thriller” before the main event, hosted by Maritime Heritage Park on Oct. 31 at 8 p.m.
Volunteer performer Penny Henderson said Thrillingham hasn’t always been a fundraising event.
“It started out as flash mobs in the middle of downtown Bellingham with just a few people,” Henderson said.
Once previous organizers saw how the flash mobs brought the Bellingham community together, they decided to turn it into something that could help people, Rosa Palma said, one of the event’s organizers.
Henderson has been participating in the event for nearly seven years, and said she would participate as a performer because it’s fun, but also great exercise.
Newcomer Charlie McNallie heard about Thrillingham through her friends Krys Kirkwood and Simplot, who are organizers of the event.
“[I decided to get involved] because they’re my friends and it sounded like fun,” McNallie said matter-of-factly.
Palma said it’s important to highlight how much the city is helping the cause by donating space at Bloedel Donovan Park for dance classes and planning, as well as time at Maritime Heritage Park for the event on Halloween night.