EY WEST, Florida Keys — On the offbeat island of Key West, even the zombies defy stereotypes. Instead of eerily prowling wastelands in tattered garments, as often portrayed in films and TV, Key West’s zombies are to hop on their bikes and cheerfully pedal beside the Atlantic Ocean Sunday, Oct. 22, during the island’s annual Zombie Bike Ride.
A pre-Halloween tradition for visiting and local families and groups, the ride typically draws several thousand creatively costumed men, women and children — and even a few animal companions. They cycle along the island’s shores and streets sporting everything from chalk-white face paint and tattered rags to quirky “zombified” tutus, pirate garb and wedding gowns.
The wacky event is to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday when “Zombieland” opens at Fort East Martello Museum, a reputedly haunted historic site overlooking the Atlantic at 3501 S. Roosevelt Blvd.
The afternoon’s attractions include food and beverage vendors, music, and on-site face and body painters to help attendees unleash their inner zombies. An expanded kids’ zone is to be set up at the fort with age-appropriate activities.
At 6 p.m., “the biking dead” are to depart on their ride. The 4-mile route takes them down South Roosevelt Boulevard beside the ocean, past Higgs Beach and into parts of Key West’s picturesque Old Town.
Among the standouts in the 2022 trek were a supersized sorcerer, a “zombie ambulance” and a cemetery escapee propelling a pseudo-coffin. Other participants portrayed everything from zombie prisoners and superheroes to sinister clowns.
The 2023 cavalcade is to travel down Key West’s famed Duval Street, likely startling unsuspecting pedestrians, and head for the ZombieFest After Party at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater, 21 E. Quay Road. Admission is free and scheduled attractions include food vendors, a full bar, dancing, prizes for best zombie ensembles, and tunes spun by DJ Sanaris.
The Zombie Bike Ride takes place on the first weekend of Key West's annual Fantasy Fest costuming and masking festival, a 10-day extravaganza scheduled Friday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 29.
Registration to ride in the zany zombie ramble is $10 per person and includes admission to “Zombieland” at Fort East Martello.
Zombie Bike Ride event and registration information: zombiebikeride.com
Key West zombies hop on their bikes and cheerfully pedal beside the Atlantic Ocean during the island’s annual Zombie Bike Ride. Photos by: Rob O'Neal