Community notebook // Zombie Pub Crawl organizers hoping to set world record

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September 24, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: By Jeremy Zoss, Sarah McKenzie & Dylan Thomas
By Jeremy Zoss, Sarah McKenzie & Dylan Thomas

Be afraid. Be very afraid. On Oct. 13, zombies will take over Minneapolis. Minneapolis has survived seven such zombie infestations, but this year’s outbreak could be the most severe yet. It’s time once again for the Zombie Pub Crawl.

Unofficially the largest pub crawl in the world, co-organizer Taylor Carik said the Zombie Pub Crawl has grown from around 100 participants eight years ago to 30,000 last year. The first crawl was held in Northeast, but now the crawl has spread to downtown, the West Bank and St. Paul. 

This year, the Zombie Pub Crawl will center around the eastern edge of Washington Avenue downtown (near Grumpy’s) and most of the West Bank and Seven Corners. St. Paul’s Midway Stadium will be renamed “Zombie Island” for the event and feature a full-fledged carnival with rides and a stage with local and national acts.

A shuttle service will bring zombies back and forth between the two cities.   

This year, one of the main events will be an attempt to break the record for the largest gathering of people dressed as zombies. The official record currently stands at 4,093. The Zombie Pub Crawl easily exceeded that number years ago, but the Guinness World Record organization requires more documentation, so a formal counting will happen at 8 p.m. at Zombie Island. 

Carik said this year’s Zombie Pub Crawl has several other surprises in store, such as an inflatable 50-foot zombie, multiple concert stages and more. The 400 Bar will feature the world’s largest gathering of Zombie Go-Go Dancers and a wedding at the Seven Corners Holiday Inn is inviting zombies to come dance during the reception. For two weeks prior to the Zombie Pub Crawl, West Bank bars will sell limited edition cans of “Brain Belt Premium” beer, with special can art designed by Zombie Pub Crawl artist Dwitt. 

While the Zombie Pub Crawl is a chaotic and messy event, Carik said West Bank bars are thrilled to host the event. It has become one of the busiest days for the area’s bars, which serve exponentially bigger (and thirstier) crowds during the event than normal days. 

“If we weren’t such a good economic impact on the West Bank, I doubt we would get any leeway with the city,” said Carik. “We want this to be a net positive for everyone on the West Bank.”

Wristbands are required for all zombies in attendance and are on sale now for $19.99. The price will increase after Oct. 1. Special wristbands for Very Important Zombies (VIZ) are also available for $150. VIZ tickets include a custom tote bag with art by Dwitt, 10 free drinks, reserved access to musical stages and, perhaps most important, VIZ-only luxury bathrooms.

If you plan on attending the Zombie Pub Crawl, Carik has one final, critical piece of advice. “We tell people not to wear any clothes they’re not going to throw away,” he said. 

Students Today, Leaders Forever celebrates anniversary in new Elliot Park headquarters

ELLIOT PARK — This summer has been busy for Students Today, Leaders Forever (STLF). 

The nonprofit organization has opened a new office in Elliot Park at 609 S. 10th St., celebrated its ninth anniversary on Sept. 18, thrown its annual fundraising party and is busy gearing up for Give to the Max Day on Nov. 15, its single largest fundraising day of the year.

That would be a lot for any nonprofit, but STLF isn’t just any nonprofit. The organization works to reveal the leadership qualities inherent in young people through spring break service trips, during which students complete public service projects and team-building exercises. Co-executive director Irene Fernando said when the group was formed, people doubted it would be able to find students willing to spend their spring breaks serving others. But everyone involved in the creation of STLF was a young college student willing to do so, and they assumed they would be able to find other students with the same mindset.

“The way that it started was in freshman year, four of us got together at 3 a.m. over Top Ramen,” said Fernando. “Typical dorm room. We asked ourselves, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we as college freshmen could be seen as role models? Wouldn’t it be great if we as a bunch of teenagers could change the world?’ So our answer to that question was to do a spring break trip that we called the Pay It Forward tour.” 

The first Pay It Forward tour recruited 43 people spread across four buses for an eight-day bus trip through Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. In the second year of the program, the trip needed 11 buses. The year after that required 25. The STLF founders graduated in 2007, hired themselves as full-time staffers and have continued operating ever since. The group is closing in on its 400th bus tour, resulting in 221,000 hours of service to date and nearly 16,000 participating students.

STLF’s bus trips and other programs are all lead by student volunteers, which is a key part of the organization’s goal. 

“Our mission is to reveal leadership through service, relationships and action,” said Fernando. We don’t believe we build or create leaders, we’re revealing what’s already inside a person.” 

Elliot Park church opening homeless shelter this fall

ELLIOT PARK — First Covenant Church is opening a homeless shelter Oct. 1 in response to the growing need for beds in the downtown area.

The church at 810 S. 7th St. will have 50 beds for men and women 18 and older, said Dan Collison, senior pastor at First Covenant.

There was a surge in the homeless population this summer as many people experiencing homeless gravitated toward the OccupyMN movement at Peavey Plaza. When the Minneapolis Police Department closed the area for cleaning and maintenance in mid-July in preparation for the planned renovations for the plaza, community leaders started exploring ways to find shelter for the homeless who had been camping there.

First Covenant was a logical choice as the church has opened a temporary shelter the past couple of winters for the homeless.

“We are a community of faith trying to listen to the rhythms of the city and step up to help,” Collison said, adding the shelter will be temporary but likely up and running for a couple of years.

First Covenant Church is part of the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness group — a network of 16 downtown-area houses of worship working to fight homelessness and poverty.

The church’s shelter will be open seven days a week — from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. First Covenant will also be providing meals for the shelter guests and is seeking volunteers to help. Those interested should contact the church’s shelter volunteer coordinator Jessica Kasper at shelter@1stcov.org or 927-3125.

North Loop might be in line for a new park 

NORTH LOOP — Community leaders have launched a feasibility study for a new park in the fast-growing neighborhood.

While the area is bordered by the riverfront, many areas in the North Loop are starved for green open spaces. The neighborhood has industrial roots and is dominated by brick and concrete.

The North Loop Neighborhood Association has tapped St. Paul-based Great River Greening to help explore plans for a park, said Karen Rosar, vice president of the neighborhood group.

“The need is stark,” she said. “We have a beautiful riverfront that many of us use. Unfortunately, there are areas of the [North Loop] that are quite a distance from the riverfront. … In order to have a sustainable community in those areas underserved by civic/green spaces we need to initiate them.”

Neighborhood leaders are considering a park site somewhere within the area bordered by 5th Avenue, 10th Avenue, Washington and 4th Street North.

Deborah Karasov, executive director of Great River Greening, said the nonprofit is working on a scoping study to take a look at many issues surrounding the possibility of a new park.

The study explores the potential costs, stakeholders and site possibilities, among other things.

There are plans for a community meeting in early October to discuss the study.

“Everyone recognizes that the North Loop has experienced tremendous growth, expecially residential, but that open space is key to the quality of life for the residents,” Karasov said.

Candidate forum puts focus on East African community

The concerns of the local East African community were front-and-center during the first post-primary School Board candidate forum, held Sept. 6 at Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

The event hosted by the New Americans Political Action Committee, a group that advocates for Minnesota’s East African immigrants, was lightly attended, with only about 25 people watching the six candidates who will appear on the Election Day ballot, plus one write-in candidate invited to join in the discussion.

That write-in candidate was Eli Kaplan, a longtime district observer who also served more than two decades on the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, who is challenging Doug Mann and incumbent Carla Bates for the one open citywide seat on the board. Also present were District 4 candidates Josh Reimnitz and Patty Wycoff, as well as Kim Ellison and Tracine Asberry, who are running unopposed in districts 2 and 6, respectively.

A question posed by moderators early in the evening asked about a crucial set of data the district does not yet have access to: student achievement broken-down by the language those students speak at home. That data, the moderators suggested, could assist the district in tracking the performance of specific immigrant communities.

None of the candidates disagreed that the district should more closely track how students whose families arrived here from Somalia or Mexico are faring, and Bates noted School Board members Hussein Samatar and Alberto Monserrate were leading the push to get language-specific data from the state, an effort both she and Ellison, the other incumbent on the November ballot, said they supported.

The debate returned often to the subject of English language learner, or ELL students. At one point, Reimnitz noted ELL students represent about one-fifth of the district, and said planning for their needs was one of the areas where the current School Board was not moving with enough urgency.

The candidates often found common ground during the forum, and most agreed the district should step-up efforts to recruit bilingual and multilingual teachers, possibly by launching a national search, as Bates suggested. Wycoff said she would hold the superintendent accountable “for building a more inclusive work force,” adding that the district needs to improve its support systems for all new teachers.

For Mann, the discussion was an opening to touch on an argument he has pursued through seven School Board campaigns. He blames district hiring and firing practices for clustering inexperienced teachers in schools with high proportions of poor and minority students, exacerbating the achievement gap.

Later in the evening, a question from the moderators noted ELL students often lag behind their peers on state tests for years after joining Minneapolis Public Schools. One way to give English-learning communities a boost would be through early childhood education programs, they suggested, but the moderators said Cedar-Riverside, with the state’s highest concentration of East African families, didn’t have easy access to quality preschools.

Every candidate pledged to help in one way or another, and both Reimnitz and Wycoff noted it could take a partnership with the city or the county to bring a new early childhood center to the area. Several others, including Ellison and Asberry, urged the community to be more vocal about its needs and demand change from the School Board.

With the night’s final question, the moderators expressed some of the frustration their community felt over Changing School Options, the plan that in 2010 redrew school attendance boundaries and generally funneled students into schools closer to their homes in an attempt to rein-in transportation spending. There was widespread dissatisfaction with the plan — and not just in the East African community — in the way it shifted school pathways.

Ellison, whose youngest daughter lost her pathway to South High School under the plan, was, like the other candidates, sympathetic to their frustrations. Wycoff, for one, has waged a campaign that advocates for greater community involvement in district decision-making in direct response to Changing School Options. Like her, Kaplan decried “top-down” district planning.

Reimnitz made a point that the other candidates did not disagree with, linking frustration over shifting school pathways to a much deeper problem for the district: the uneven quality of its schools, and the perceived lack of good schools in some parts of the city.

Bates, who served on the board that approved the plan, acknowledged its shortcomings, but said painful trade-offs were a part of governing. She reminded the audience of her successful campaign to save Pratt Community School from closing, which kept open a pathway for ELL students.

Teachers weigh in on education policy

Classroom teachers with decades of combined experience in Minneapolis Public Schools will share their perspectives on education reform efforts during “Chalk Talk: Teachers ‘Take’ on Education Policy” 7:30 p.m.–9 p.m. Oct. 4 at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave.

The panelists will attempt to explain how education initiatives developed at the federal, state and local levels impact day-to-day learning in the classroom. They include: Susan Bell, a 2003 Minnesota Teacher of the Year finalist who retired in 2010 after 38 years of teaching; James Kindle, an English language learner teacher at Anne Sullivan Communication Center; and Jim Barnhill, a South High School special education teacher who serves on the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers executive board.

The League of Women Voters plans to post a video of the discussion on its website, lwvmpls.org, after the event.

One Minneapolis One Read kicks off 

Daine Wilson’s book, “Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past,” is the featured book for the second One Minneapolis One Read intiative.

Wilson will discuss her book with radio veteran Garrison Keillor at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Sept. 24, 7 p.m. For tickets go to ticketworks.com or call 343-3390.

In her book, Wilson goes on a journey to discover her family’s roots going back to the 1862 Dakota War in Minnesota. To learn more go to oneminneapolisoneread.com.

Basilica’s Blessing of the Animals coming up

HENNEPIN — The Basilica of Saint Mary is holding its annual Blessing of the Animals event Sept. 30. The event is tied to the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi who was known for his love of animals. 

Pets and their loved ones are scheduled to gather on the Basilica lawn at 1 p.m. The service is at 1:30 p.m. followed by a processional of pets, their owners, clergy and other members of the congregation at 2:30 p.m. for a festival on the lawn. 

Blessing of the Animals T-shirts and bandanas will be for sale. For more details, go to mary.org. 

Northeast clean-up days sponsored by Chamber of Commerce

The Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce is organizing a clean-up program for the area from Oct. 4–6. The “Weed It & Reap” program is looking for volunteers to help pick up debris on sidewalks, boulevards and neighborhood streets. The Chamber will supply vests, gloves, garbage bags and area assignments. For their time, volunteers will receive free food and a T-shirt.

Weed It & Reap volunteers will meet at Tom’s Style & Tanning, 748 Lowry Ave. NE. The program runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct 4 & 5 and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Those who are interested in participating can contact the Northeast Chamber office at 378-0050 or clevens@minneapolischamber.org.

Riverfront 5K run/walk returns for ninth year

The ninth annual Historic Riverfront 5K Run/Walk will be held along the Mississippi River on Oct. 13. Organized by the Saint Anthony West Neighborhood organization (STAWNO), the event raises funds for the Dickman Summer Park Program and other neighborhood projects.

The run will begin at 9 a.m. at Boom Island Park continue along the river, over the Stone Arch Bridge and back to Boom Island. Registration is $25 prior to Oct. 9 and $30 on race day. Participants will receive a workout shirt, water, snacks, chair massages and be eligible for prize drawings. For more information, visit stawno.org.