It’s crunch time to find the perfect Halloween costume for the alter-egos within. According to Google’s “Frightgeist,” costumes most trending in Wilmington are Batman, Princess, Spider-Man, Rainbow Dash, and Pirate—in case anyone needs to know what bandwagons to join or avoid. Nevertheless, zombies are what tend to overrun the annual ZombieFest stage, which can be found this year—complete with dance cage—at Ironclad Brewery (115 N. 2nd St.) on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m.
ZombieFest started six years ago as an uncommercialized, underground Halloween party. Founded by local musicians The Phantom Playboys, they encouraged everyone to flex their creative muscles in creating original costumes to show off while enjoying original music.
“It is basically a wild costume party extravaganza with bands and B-zombie movies playing on a giant screen behind the band all night long,” says event co-founder and Plaboys drummer “Jungle Jim” Kaylis. “It’s basically an homage to zombies; however, costumes are very creative and varied.”
More so, the band have made it a family-friendly event, wherein parents can bring their little ones dressed as pumpkins, princesses or even zombie babies. “I’ve even seen 2-year-olds with earphones over their head to protect their hearing,” Kaylis continues. “But Zombiefest is not a real loud event. I think it was more precautionary.”
Not only does Halloween fall on a Saturday night this year, which won’t happen again until Halloween 2020, the venue change to Ironclad places ZombieFest in the middle of downtown Wilmington. “That is what’s going to make ZombieFest special this year,” Kaylis assures. “I expect the street traffic to be nuts. In fact, I don’t know why Wilmington doesn’t shut down three blocks of Front Street on Halloween night and just allow walking traffic—and be able to have your drinks in plastic cups on the street like they do in Savannah. I hope one day Wilmington gets there.”
As one of the organizers of ZombieFest, Kaylis moved the event from his own studio, Space 13 on Burnett Boulevard to at Ironclad to ease the pressure. He and fellow Playboys member Maaike Brender à Brandis (owner/partner of Cape Fear Wine and Beer) do all the planning for the event.
“Maaike has provided the beer for ZombieFest for the past five years in a row and it’s a bit stressful and time-consuming,” he explains. “I have broken down my artisan shop warehouse tools every year and it really is an eight-day process—three days to break the shop down and prepare for ZombieFest and three days to put it back together.”
Yet, the work is worth the fun. The costume contest brings in more and more creative creatures each year. This year’s winner of the $100 cash prize will be determined by the audience. “That’ll pay for your night on the town,” Kaylis says. Applause will be the award generator.
“[The winner] will get a free ZombieFest shirt and Phantom Playboys CD,” he continues. “We will also be having ZombieFest T-shirt and CD giveaways throughout the night.”
Each year The Phantom Playboys contribute their style of rockabilly, with a touch of swing energy, alongside other bands, which have been local and have included out-of-town headliners. This year The Madd Hatters will take the ZombieFest stage and the Cashmere Jungle Lords will come down from Richmond.
“I think each band is uniquely different this year and that makes the lineup pretty interesting,” says Kaylis, who also is the drummer for the Jungle lords. “The Madd Hatters are straight up ska with a little bit of punk mixed in . . . and the Cashmere Jungle Lords play surf-jungle rock-and-roll, with a flair for the dynamic. Their sound is rooted in surf and international flavors—coupled with straight-up good old high-energy rockin.’”
There will be a full bar for the first time, which will accept credit cards as payment; however, cash is needed for T-shirts (both girls tank tops and men’s work-style shirts will be available) and food from Chef Tony McKoy, a.k.a. Chef Tony. “Chef Tony will be there, as he is every year, with prepared foods, when people get a little hungry or a little tipsy and feel like they need a little something to munch on,” Kaylis quips. “And his food always hits the spot … try the mac and cheese!”
Chef Tony is known for serving up home cooked meals from his Community Boys’ and Girls’ Club restaurant at 901 Nixon St. While his primary customers are club members, he also serves the public. but “The majority of patrons are from the service industry, but I also do events like [ZombieFest],” he tells.
This year’s ZombieFest menu and overall access to the food is going to be different. Because Ironclad is so close to Chef Tony’s restaurant, instead of a limited buffet-style set-up like in years past, he will have a full menu to order from, and it will be delivered within the hour. A few pre-made items will be available on site to purchase. “They’ll have more of a selection because it comes straight from the kitchen,” the chef says.
Chef Tony is used to catering to vegetarians—even the zombie ones—so he will have an arsenal of salad options and his sought-after mac and cheese. “I can’t do an event for them without making macaroni and cheese,” he says. “I’ll also do two kinds of meatballs, Italian and probably BBQ, chicken wings, burgers, chicken sandwiches (grilled or fried), and I’ll probably have ribs available.”
Food prices will range from $5 to $10. Admission to ZombieFest is $15 cash at the door. The party starts at 7 p.m. on Halloween night at Ironclad Brewery (115 N. 2nd St.).
For more details, visit the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1527556070867653/.