On Stage

Thrillingham

Darkness falls across the land

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I’ve seen some weird and wonderful things in the years I’ve attended “Thrillingham” performances in downtown Bellingham.

For example, the first time I encountered the spectacle of a horde of dancing zombies recreating Michael Jackson’s spooky “Thriller” dance—the same year the troubled 50-year-old singer accidentally overdosed on prescribed meds and left his earthly remains behind for his siblings to fight over—the resulting hubbub shut down a good portion of the Holly Street corridor. For blocks, all that could be seen in the urban core were costumed revelers and the undead dancing (and partying) in the streets.

In recent years, those organizing the annual event have moved off of public roadways and made the amphitheater at Maritime Heritage Park the nexus of the scary spectacle. It’s a good call, as there are plenty of places to perch for bird’s-eye views of the marvelous madness—which include, but are not limited to, the performers taking part in the undulating of the undead.

Last Halloween was a doozy. In addition to the hordes of dancers shuffling around as in-sync zombies during the execution of “Thriller,” other area performers also shared their moves and musical talents prior to the main event, making the night come alive with sound and spectacle.

But that’s wasn’t all; not by a long shot. “Thrillingham” crowds tend to get into the Halloween spirit. This means that part of the fun of coming to Maritime Heritage Park after darkness falls across the land is sussing out the amazing costumes that are on display—whether it’s a person who painted themselves blue to more closely make themselves resemble Papa Smurf, a human-turned-Pterodacyl, a man-sized bear or an eerily spot-on child vampire.

I’m still not sure if it was a hallucination, but something especially weird happened at the culmination of last October’s “Thrillingham.” After the performers had left the stage and a community dance party had commenced in the same space, out of nowhere a man on a horse—along with a woman sitting behind him on the saddle who looked like she was hanging on for dear life—rode his giant steed up the main walkway of the park. People got out of his way as he approached the stage, so I’m pretty sure they saw him, too.

But almost as quickly as the cowboy and his panicked passenger had entered the party, they soon departed, disappearing into the night. Only hoofbeats could be heard as people turned to each other murmuring, “Did you just see what I saw?”

My point is this: Part of the fun of “Thrillingham”—which also acts as a fundraiser for Lydia Place and sees a variety of community members practicing their moves for up to a month to make Halloween memorable for the masses—is never knowing exactly what to expect.

While you’re guaranteed to see approximately 100 zombies groaning, moaning, snarling, dancing and generally acting like they’re hungry for brains, brains and more brains, what you don’t know is how the night will end, or who else will make a Halloween-night visit to downtown Bellingham. It could be a man on a horse—or it could be your worst nightmare.

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