The apocalypse was in full swing at Saturday's Zombie Walk. Hordes of the living dead crowded Tenth Street Plaza and spilled into the streets of downtown Modesto, leaving spectators unsure about a possible epidemic.
"I had been to zombie walks in other cities, and I decided that Modesto needed one too," said Dalilah Sevilla, who organized the event.
"I love how it gets people together and they're all taking pictures of each other's costumes and having a great time."
"The zombie walk is a bunch of people walking around the block dressed up like zombies, and hopefully scaring people. Also, vendors come and sell a lot of cool merchandise," said Christopher Vandenberg-Garcia, who brandished an ax and donned a bloody hazmat outfit. "I came because I think scaring other people can be a lot of fun. Also because I love the horror genre; I've always been interested in zombie movies, even though a lot of them are really cheesy and awful," he said with a laugh.
"Some of them are very well done though, and the good ones are really good. It's all about the characters, not just the gore."
With the release of recent zombie films and games, such as the latest chapter in the "Resident Evil" saga in September, zombies' popularity is on the rise.
There are many explanations for America's love affair with the walking dead. Some say it's because they reflect the increasingly mindless nature of our everyday lives.
Others argue that it's because we all have a love for violence and a drive to face our fears of the unknown.
"I got into zombies because of video games and George Romero's films," said Sevilla. "Movies and games are definitely a large part of it."
The walk brings together people from all walks of life who share a passion for the putrid.
"I went to the zombie walk in Merced last year," said Marilyn Rownd. "I was looking for something closer, and someone told me about this one."
Rownd found the event on Facebook page.
"(I've been into zombies) ever since I was a little kid," she said. "The very first scary movie I ever saw was 'Night of the Living Dead.' It scared me so bad, I had so many nightmares. For me (the walk), means facing my own fears, and having a lot of fun doing it!"
Many people made their own costumes using a variety of makeup and YouTube tutorials.
Some came as the undead and others posed as survivors and zombie hunters. At one point, a spontaneous zombie-versus-survivor war broke out, with SWAT-uniform clad teams brandishing fake weapons at their rotting enemies, who collapsed dramatically onto the plaza.
The event attracted fewer than the 200 who showed up last year.
Participants are looking forward to a better turnout in 2013.
Many families brought young children, which some might find surprising considering the level of violence at the event.
"I wanted to bring my daughter so she could experience it, as a way for her to be able to get involved and not be afraid," said Daniel Saucedo.
"It's a time for zombie fans to come together in Modesto and zombie it up!" said Lasanta Edwards, who came to the event with her family, all of whom arrived in full undead décor.
Edwards herself came in a Snow White costume with a gruesome twist.
"It's the walking dead!" she said. "How can you not love it?"
Annie Mathews is a member of the Teens in the Newsroom Program.