john king
Zombie Attack co-founder John King

This year’s Zombie Walk left high levels of garbage in its wake, as IL noted in a prior story, and the trail of trash garnered backlash from Highlands residents and Metro Government. Now, Zombie Attack/Zombie Walk co-founder John King is telling his side of the story, explaining how and why he thinks the Aug. 29 event went so wrong.

This failed cleanup spawned a swirl of controversy as to how the event was able to proceed without a clear trash pickup plan in place. Blame has landed on organizer Lyndi Lou for not correctly filling out the forms that would ensure cleanup procedures were in place, and on the city for allowing the event to proceed without these forms being completed correctly.

Now King is sharing his insights as to how this year’s event, which he says is being called Trashgate 2015, went so wrong. King spoke with IL one-on-one in addition to issuing a public statement; we have drawn from both sources for this story.

For starters, King says he had been the principal organizer of the Louisville Zombie Attack since it began in 2005. This year, however, he claims he was cut out of the event by co-founder Lou when they came to loggerheads over where to hold the event.

King says he wanted to move it away from Bardstown Road to Headliners Music Hall, using the venue and parking lot for the event. This would allow for easier cleanup and a safer off-street environment, says King, who felt Bardstown Road was no longer viable, compounded by the fact that several Highlands residents made it clear they didn’t want the event in their neighborhood.

There was precedent for moving the event off Bardstown Road, according to King, as it had been held on Barret Avenue in 2012 and 2013, with the Monkey Wrench and Barret Bar hosting. “These were the most successful years we had,” he tells IL. This move also generated the most income to date for permits, cleanup, insurance and other function-related necessities, he says. “For many years, I have tried to reorganize Zombie Attack and move it to a larger, safer location.”

However, he claims Lou objected and was adamant about keeping the event on Bardstown Road, leading to their rift. “I got froze out and had nothing to do with this year’s event, and it was a logistical nightmare,” he tells IL. “I’m sorry for the people in the Highlands and sorry for such a mess. There was nothing I could do about it.”

In past years, King says he thoroughly planned for all contingencies with the Louisville Fire Department, Metro Police, Waste Management and Public Works. “How she got a permit without working out plans with Waste Management, I have no idea.”

Though King says he was “cut out” of this year’s event, he remains listed as an organizer on the Zombie Attack website. “I was cut out of it this year, but maintain that I haven’t officially left the organization,” he tells to IL.

King also says he’s not only sad about how the event went down, but for the split with his longtime friend, Lou. The two started the event together because they shared Aug. 29 as a birthday. Over the years, planning the Zombie Attack became one of their rare chances to spend a lot of time together; however, the two haven’t spoken since June.

“I do hope we can figure this out and get back to our friendship,” he says. “It’s a great festival that I hate to see ruined this way.”

IL has tried multiple times to contact Lou for her side of the story, both about her apparent rift with King and how the event went awry. She hasn’t returned our emails or calls but has issued public statements on social media taking responsibility for what went wrong.

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IL also contacted mayoral spokesperson Chris Poynter to learn more about the possible cost of cleanup, who ultimately will be held responsible for it, and how Lou was able to proceed without correctly filled-out forms.

Poynter responded to our queries via an email that addressed one point above, but not all. “The event permit clearly states that event organizers are required to clean up after their event,” he wrote. “This is required of all events, from the smallest block festival to the massive Derby Festival.”

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David Serchuk
David Serchuk is a staff writer at Insider Louisville. He is a former editor at Forbes.com, and an ex-reporter at Forbes magazine. He's written for NPR, CNBC.com, New York, Pittsburgh, Louisville and other publications named for places. He enjoys writing about business, music and other things as well.