Julia Tobrock (left), 12, Savannah Tobrock, 18, and Sundara Coyote, 18, participate in a zombie walk through downtown Ashland on Tuesday. The annual tradition focused this year on securing food donations for ACCESS. - Jamie Lusch

Ghouls just wanna have fun

ASHLAND — The group of undead to meet in front of the Ashland Library before starting their trek to the downtown Plaza Tuesday evening was not your stereotypical flesh-eating herd.

This small group of zombies obeyed traffic signals, stuck to the sidewalks, and didn't try to bite anyone. In its fourth year — as in other years — the Ashland Zombie Walk kept it civil. Please don't eat the humans.

This bloodied group of flesh connoisseurs and their "victims" was small compared to the hundreds that have flocked to the starting point in years past — around 15 people — but whether four or 400 show up, organizers Jason and Vanessa Houk want to see it continue.

The horde must go on.

"We wanted to keep the tradition going," Jason Houk says.

The primary purpose of past zombie walks has been fun, but they have been meant to draw attention to political or social issues, Houk says. The Occupy Movement, for example, was the 2011 theme. This year's was more focused on getting food donations for ACCESS.

That's part of the zombie shtick, fans say. The organ-craving nightmares represent something bigger, something grander. On screen they've been allegories for greed or hatred, anything that highlights humanity's nastier attributes.

"It's not necessarily the zombies themselves, it's how humanity reacts," says 22-year-old Chazlyn Lovely, a Southern Oregon University senior dressed to the nines as a tribute to Daryl Dixon, a character on the 'Walking Dead' TV show.

Her ensemble included a necklace of sliced-off ears and a crossbow, Daryl's accessory and weapon of choice, respectively.

James Friedman, 19, agrees with Lovely's assessment.

"I'm the guy who intellectualizes it," Friedman says of the zombie genre. "It's interesting. It's fun. I love the idea of something that is so human and yet so unnatural."

Attendee Chris Rakestraw, dressed in a blood-spattered shirt and wielding a bat, says he enjoys how the genre has expanded beyond the traditional moaning, staggering image. Contemporary re-imaginings include running zombies that have to sprint for their supper.

"I love how there are so many different kinds," 18-year-old Rakestraw says. "It's got a lot of adaptability."

He adds that he's been attending since the event started four years ago, and that it's been a good chance to get out and meet other would-be monsters.

"I've loved it every time," he says.

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