Bring Extra Bejabbers: Fright Night Will Scare Bejabbers Out of You

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It’s not always easy to predict what new events will catch on and which will not.

But the Downtown Improvement District’s “Fright Night,” which debuted in 2007, seemed like a sure thing from the start.

Fort Wayne has an inordinate love of all holidays, but especially Halloween.

“Fright Night,” happening in various locales in and near downtown on October 21, will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year.

Rick Zolman, events & programming manager for the Downtown Improvement District, said the tagline this year is “A Night to Dismember.”

“We wanted to have a little fun with it,” he said.

“Fright Night” is generally a family-friendly event, so the DID has to be careful not to push the envelope too much, especially when devising the sort of marketing taglines that might get printed on envelopes.

“We always have to watch that,” he said, “We want it to be somewhat scary, but not too scary. It’s a fine line.”

There are plenty of new facets to the event this year, Zolman said.

In and around the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center, patrons will find DIA Fort Wayne, a multifaceted tribute to the Día de los Muertos, aka the Day of the Dead.

There will be live music, multiple taco vendors, a beer garden, face painting…even lucha libre wrestlers.

Lucha libre wrestling is a Mexican tradition even older than comparable wrestling traditions in the states. And its mythology is deeper and more culturally pervasive.

At DIA Fort Wayne, you can present offerings (ofrendas) to the spirits of the departed and you can be transformed (temporarily, to be sure) into a skeleton (calaca).

Prizes will be awarded for the best calaca costume.

The Dead Comics Comedy Battle at O’Reilly’s will have local comics impersonating deceased comics, although the meaning of the phrase “I’m dying up here” will probably remain unchanged.

Zolman said the downtown YMCA will be doing a “trunk or treat,” The Yummi Bunni will host an ice cream social, Parkview Field will be the scene of a scavenger hunt, and the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory will have all sorts of pumpkin and gourd games for the kids.

The Fort Wayne Dance Collective, under new management these days, will present a hotel-themed performance at Parkview Physicians Group ArtsLab and the Fort Wayne Youth Ballet will offer a low-key Frankenstein-themed show at the Auer Center for the Arts & Culture.

Nashville, Tennessee funk band Here Come the Mummies will return to the Embassy Theatre. They will be preceded by the Fort Wayne Fright Orchestra, known the other 364 days of the year as the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra.

Jim Sharmin’s and Richard O”Brien’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” will unspool once more on the terrace of the Botanical Conservatory, where fans will try to use the original film to heal wounds incurred while watching the TV reboot.

Cinema Center will host a showing of the silent film, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” with live accompaniment from a group of Fort Wayne Philharmonic musicians known as String Shift.

Zolman said the Brain Eating Contest is scheduled to return this year (the “brains” will be cakes confected by Sweets So Geek).

Fright Night has so many components that it’s improbable to list them all here. Zolman said Fright Night technically starts at 10 a.m. and goes past midnight.

There really isn’t a main event, per se, but of there were, it would be the Zombie Walk.

Zombie Walk (living citizens dressed as undead citizens shuffling through downtown) had grown considerably since it debuted in 2008.

Around 2000 people showed up for the first Zombie Walk. Now it draws more than 10,000, Zolman said.

Ten years ago, Fright Night unfolded in a downtown area that looked very different from what it is today. It’s as if downtown has grown up around the event.

“It’s hard to describe the excitement that we have about this,” Zolman said. “For me this is my favorite event that we do.”

Zolman said Fright Night has always brought people downtown who don’t have a reason to visit regularly and now they’re seeing the major changes that have happened and are in the process of happening.

“If they haven’t read a newspaper or watched the TV, they’re coming down and seeing the momentum,” he said.

Zolman said the DID’s goal is to “activate space,” to get people downtown and get them enjoying the amenities.

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