A crowd of frightening zombies emerged from the dead Saturday at De la Guerra Plaza as Santa Barbara joined a worldwide effort to set a simultaneous “Thriller” dance record.  (Valorie Smith / Noozhawk photo)

Nearly 100 local zombie dancers showed up at Santa Barbara’s De la Guerra Plaza — precisely at 4 p.m. Saturday — to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with the rest of the world.

“Thrill The World” was planned to break the world record of largest simultaneous “Thriller” dance. World Dance and Hip Brazil joined with the Santa Barbara Dance Center to stage the event in Santa Barbara for the first time.

According to Thrill The World, the unofficial count for Saturday’s worldwide dance was 3,362 zombie dancers in at least 25 other countries. The record was set last year when, over a two-day period, 22,596 people in 33 countries danced “Thriller,” Thrill The World said.

“Getting to do something with the world is just amazing,” said Janet Reineck, the organizer of the event from the Santa Barbara Dance Center. “We had such a good time.”

Reineck and her students started practicing the dance about three months ago, and she said she even had people coming in Saturday morning to start learning the moves.

“It was fabulous,” said Julia Kilgore Brent, who danced with her 7-year-old daughter. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing. I’m glad that I did it.”

Some dancers donned Jackson-style red jackets while others wore handmade zombie costumes with makeup.

At 3:59 p.m., zombies were “dead” on the grass, ready to dance. The audience that almost filled the grassy area of De la Guerra Plaza started counting down from 10 seconds. Exactly at 4, the music started and zombies came back from the dead.

The audience cheered the zombies while watching them dance. Afterward, they gave lots of applause to the dancers.

“It looked really fun and it looked like they had a good time,” said Barbara Rook, who came to watch the dancers. She said she would like to come back next year.

“We are expecting 1,000 people next year,” Reineck said.

Reineck welcomes more dancers in the classes and said the groups plan to continue participating in Thrill The World every year. For next year’s Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Parade, they plan to perform Jackson’s “Beat It.” For class information, contact Reineck at 805.966.5439 or e-mail her at jreineck@cox.net.

Noozhawk intern Eri Arai is a journalism student at SBCC.