04/29/13 12:24pm
04/29/2013 12:24 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Runners navigate the muddy Survival Race course last year.

Thousand of runners and “zombies” are expected to descend on the Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp in Baiting Hollow this coming weekend, May 4 and May 5.

But while Saturday’s Survival Race and Sunday’s Zombie Race appear to have the support of Riverhead Town Board members, race organizers still don’t have a Town Board resolution approving the two-day event.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said on Friday that town officials were still waiting on information from a town fire marshal.

Mr. Walter said he anticipates the events will be approved by the Town Board, but that approval might not happen until Thursday’s work session, which is just three days before the first race.

“This should have been submitted much earlier,” he said, indicating that the Town Board only first discussed the proposals two weeks ago, and the applications were only filed on March 1.

Both events are being organized by Dean Del Prete, who also owns Cousins Paintball centers in Medford and Riverhead, and race director James Villepigue.

The two organized a one-day Survivor Race at 4H last September, which attracted more than 4,000 runners and spectators.

This year, they plan to hold a May 4 Survival Race, the May 5 Zombie Race, and a second Survival Race on Sept. 7 — all at the 4H camp off Sound Avenue, according to Mr. Villepique.

The Survival Race is a 5K run in which participants will tackle a number of obstacles and mud puddles.

The Zombie Race is a 5K run in which participants must allude people dressed as zombies who will try to capture flags worn at the runners’ waists, said Mr. Villepique. Racers have a belt with four flags, like in flag football, and if the zombies capture all four flags, that runner is out of the race and turns into a zombie.

“The difference between the two is that the Survival Race is more of an athletic type event while the Zombie Race is more of an entertainment event,” Mr. Villepique said.

The zombies are given costumes and are screened, he said. The zombies cannot touch runners and are instructed not to scare people to the point they are actually frightened, especially children, he added.

“It’s not like we have zombies wandering in the forest,” Mr. Villepique said. “We have designated areas that we call a zombie hoard. And then there are managers of each hoard, so, say, there may be 10 zombies in a hoard, and then there is one manager in the hoard who oversees the conduct of each group of zombies, to make sure they follow our code of conduct.”

When the group appeared at the April 11 Town Board work session, board members initially said an event of this size should have been proposed much earlier, and Mr. Walter suggested it might need a mass gathering permit from the county, and that it had already been submitted too late for that.

But race organizers said they would keep the attendance below the 5,000 attendance figure for which a mass gathering permit would be required.

Riverhead Police Lieutenant Richard Boden also said that last year’s event did not cause traffic problems.

A main complaint last year was that the Survival Race used Terry Farm Road, which is a private road. The race organizers say they will not use that road this year.

While the Survival Race may have about 4,000 runners, the runners start in waves of about 100 each half hour, so there is never a point where all 4,000 runners are entering or leaving the site at the same time, Mr. Villepique said.

tgannon@timesreview.com