EVANS CITY (KDKA) — The “Night of the Living Dead” Festival is held every October.
But it’s creating a stir this year between those who want to expand the activities to include a local cemetery, and those who say that would be disrespectful.
Since 2008, fans of the movie “Night of the Living Dead” have flocked to the place where it all began 46 years ago in Evans City. The movie introduced the undead ghouls or zombies.
But proposals to expand the festival by the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau to the Evans City Cemetery where the movie was filmed doesn’t sit well with some.
“I’m in favor of expanding it, but you must keep a sacred ground, a sacred ground,” said Ron Voltz, the president of the Evans City Cemetery Authority.
The Butler Eagle quoted Jack Cohen, president of the tourism bureau, as saying he would like to help promote Evans City as the home of the “Night of the Living Dead,” and mentioned the possibility of taking buses of festivalgoers to the cemetery.
Voltz says no way.
“They are welcomed to go up there, but not dressed as ghouls. Anybody can go there; I can’t stop them, but if they go as ghouls, I think we can stop them,” said Voltz. “I can’t see bus tours up there, I really can’t.”
KDKA’s Brenda Waters spoke with Cohen on the phone about his proposal. He declined to say anything further about it.
Meanwhile, some in the community see nothing wrong or disrespectful with expanding the festival to the cemetery, ghouls and all.
“My mother, my father and my son are up there, and I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all,” said Linda Middleton, an Evans City resident.
“I feel it’s okay at the cemetery as long as they respect the surroundings,” added Kathy Wearing, another Evans City resident.
According to the organizer of the festival, no bus tours are planned, nor are activities in the cemetery.
Gary Streiner has organized the festival for the last six years. Some 500 fans are expected and he says it all happens in downtown Evans City.
“Night of the Living Dead” fans have even raised $50,000 to restore the two-story chapel in the cemetery. It’s the only structure remaining from the movie.