Possibly this was the only place in the world where a father could motivate a balky toddler with these words: “Come on, you’re going to turn into a zombie!”
Thousands of people showed up for Cynthiana’s Walking Dead Day, which celebrated the return of the town’s “Walking Dead” royalty: Robert Kirkman, who created the comic series that has become a TV sensation, and Tony Moore, the artist for the first six issues of the comic book that inspired the series. Kirkman continues to write the comics and is an executive producer of the AMC TV series.
The idea for the event hatched when a “Walking Dead” mural painted on the side of the Rohs Opera House by Portuguese artist Sergie Odeith started to draw traffic to Cynthiana. The city Chamber of Commerce and its businesses realized how popular “Walking Dead” fan events had been in other cities, where they have drawn thousands. (An estimate for attendance in Cynthiana was not immediately available Saturday.)
During Walking Dead Day, downtown Cynthiana was packed with lines — lines for the special commemorative comic book with a new cover showing downtown Cynthiana, lines to get into the Walking Dead museum, lines for items such as Daryl cookies and selfies with volunteer zombies.
Speaking of whom, meet Matt Weber — and watch as he cheerfully chomps on a fake “brain.” (Weber’s tip: Ramen makes good brains, if you need something you can really eat and not just bite.)
Weber is a member of Cynthiana’s Halloween Extremists, who put on the annual haunted house in Cynthiana along with the Rotary Club.
“I like the gore and the macabre,” he said.
Tammy and Huck Bruce of Cynthiana and their 20-year-old son Logan spent three hours in line waiting for the commemorative comic book. Tammy Bruce did this while in a wheelchair.
She didn’t mind: “This is great for our town, and I’m a big ‘Walking Dead’ nut.”
Biancke’s Restaurant was packed literally up its staircase for the lunch rush. Although downtown Cynthiana was full of food vendors, Biancke’s offered air conditioning and a place to sit and rest.
Furiously fanning themselves on a Biancke’s bench were friends Renata Ingram of Shelbyville and Michele Venegas of Eminence, along with Venegas’ daughter Carmen, 8.
The two had planned their day with military precision, rising by 5 a.m. to be on site by 8 a.m. They skipped the comics line, which at one point snaked through much of downtown, and instead had their picture made with Michonne’s sword and Negan’s bat.
Also in line at Biancke’s was Linda Ross, pointing out proudly that her son Billy Ross’s business, Ross Auto, had provided the junked cars that lined the streets as zombie wreckage.
Outside on a food vendors row, Jenny Henson of Lexington’s Confused Confections Bakehouse was selling a sweet idea: cookies with the cartoon likenesses of “Walking Dead” TV characters.
Darryl cookies sold out early, as this was a crowd that revered all things Darryl, including the briskly selling Darryl action figures and the Darryl T-shirts of various designs worn by attendees. (There were, however, plenty of Carl cookies left.)
Henson explained the idea of creating cookie images of characters perpetually in danger of becoming zombie snacks: “Custom cakes and custom cookies is something we do all the time, and we wanted to do something that wouldn’t melt.”
Although folks on the street were quietly broiling, zombie volunteer Madison Kotek, 16, of Anderson County, said she was pretty comfortable. She hid beneath a recreational vehicle, sliding out occasionally to scare passersby.
“It’s cooler than you think,” she said.
And just when you thought you had seen everything that could be zombie-fied, there were the zombie babies.
Shelby Stanfield’s two older sons were made up as zombies, so little Aybel, nine months old, and her friend Amanda Florence’s 2-year-old son Gabriel were also made up as zombies — in their strollers.
Siblings Brandon and Breanna Cutwright triumphantly emerged from three hours waiting in the comic book line, brandishing copies of the prized limited-edition comic book.
Both said they waited in line because they wanted to show their appreciation of Cynthiana.
Asked what they would do with the comic, Brandon wasn’t immediately sure, but his sister had an idea.
“I’ll probably give it to my mother,” she said.