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Over the weekend, the streets of Salt Lake City swarmed with super heroes, aliens, geishas and zombies—lots and lots of zombies. It was all part of a guerilla—er, zombie—marketing strategy to get locals excited about the first Salt Lake Comic Con.
The Salt Lake Comic Con joined forces with a community-driven Zombie Walk, which has taken place in Salt Lake for six years now. In the past, the Zombie Walk has been a flash-mob style event, where people in the know are given the details just days before the walk.
This year, the Salt Lake Comic Con signed on as a sponsor of the Zombie Walk, bringing it unprecedented publicity. It also turned the Walk into a food drive for the Utah Food Bank, asking participants to bring non-perishable food items to donate.
As a community-led event, the Zombie Walk “is not a money-maker for anyone,” said Dan Farr, owner of Dan Farr Productions, which is producing the Salt Lake Comic Con. “We thought we’d leverage it into a food drive for the Utah Food Bank.”
Farr said many comic cons around the country include zombie walks as part of the overall event. When he first began planning the Salt Lake Comic Con, he intended to stage a zombie walk in the weeks leading up to the convention. But when he realized there was already an established zombie walk around the same time, “we decided to piggyback on the existing walk,” Farr said. “We thought we would help to promote it.”
The Zombie Walk took place on Sunday evening, starting at Pioneer Park and proceeding north, then past the Salt Palace Convention Center, where the comic con will take place in September.
The weekend events also included Cosplay Games on Saturday, which sent costumed participants on a photographic scavenger hunt to 10 locations in Salt Lake City, including the Leonardo, City Creek and The Gateway—much to the surprise of locals and visitors.
Farr began attending comic book conventions all over the country during his time at DAZ 3D, a 3D software and content company he co-founded. “We dealt with an artist community [at DAZ],” said Farr. “It gave me experience with a passionate, fan-based community.”
He said he always enjoyed the comic cons. “I just loved the energy there. It’s almost an addiction. When you go to these comic cons, you just want to go to more of them.”
After stepping away from DAZ about a year ago, he decided to realize his dream of bringing a comic con to Salt Lake. “The city was more than ready,” for a comic con, he said. “The reception has been phenomenal.”
His latest venture, Dan Farr Productions, is an event and marketing group that focuses on “the pop culture arena.”
“Comic Con is a pop culture festival … I felt like the city needed more culture,” said Farr.
The local response to the Salt Lake Comic Con has already been enthusiastic. In fact, the convention was recently moved from the South Town Expo Center to the Salt Palace to accommodate more attendees. But Farr is hoping to keep the momentum going with events like the Zombie Walk and Cosplay Games, which both engage the passionate fan base and provide a taste of the convention for locals.
He’s hoping that locals realize “you don’t have to be a super fan or a super geek to participate.”
The Salt Lake Comic Con is scheduled to take place Sept. 5 – Sept. 7 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.