Folks won’t find the East Wake Relay for Life in its usual location behind Five County Stadium this year.
And if they arrive at 9 p.m. at Zebulon Municipal Complex – where the May 19 event will be held – expecting to participate in the luminaria ceremony, they’ll be too late.
The local fundraiser for the American Cancer Society’s research and family-support programs will be held on the front lawn at town hall for the first time. Organizers made that decision in April to better suit the Relay’s needs this year.
“This is a different year, and we’re trying something new and different,” said event chair Vickie Curtis. “It’s a new adventure for us.”
Rather than running all night and into the next morning like it has the past 10 years behind the Mudcats’ ballfield, the Relay is scheduled to take place in its entirety Friday from 5-10 p.m.
When Curtis asked permission to use the town space on short notice, she assured commissioners the Relay crowd would clear out the same night. That way it wouldn’t interfere with the Farm Fresh Market there the next morning.
“We appreciate the town allowing us the opportunity to use the venue,” Curtis said. “It will provide us visibility and the possibility of pulling some participants that might not have come in the past, which hopefully will spark new interest in helping us with our fight against cancer.”
The luminaria ceremony, arguably Relay’s most powerful and popular, has always began about 9 p.m. This year, it will begin at 8 p.m.
“We’re only Relaying until 10 p.m., so we want to recognize the survivors, the caregivers and those who have lost their fight by lighting the luminaria and torches earlier,” Curtis said.
The luminaria bags come in white in memory of those who lost their battle with the disease, and in purple and white in honor of those who continue to fight cancer. Blue luminaria bags have been available to honor caregivers ever since the Relay’s survivors requested them two years ago. Torches for the Hope Garden come with ribbons designating the respective type of honor.
Luminaria and torches can be purchased online at nando.com/4rw, or at the event from 5-7 p.m. at the Relay committee tent.
The Disney-like theme for this year is “Wish Upon a Cure,” a natural excuse for children to put on a costume. Though the event will end earlier than normal, its opening schedule has not changed.
Gates open at 5 p.m. and a survivor reception begins at 5:15. Survivors will find special parking by entering the complex from Judd Street.
Opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m., and the survivor lap, caregiver lap and kids walk will follow. In addition to offering games for children, Relay teams will have unique items and new and familiar foods that can be purchased throughout the event in exchange for a donation to the cause.
“I invite all of our communities of Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon,” Curtis said. “We want folks to come out and support us, so our survivors realize our communities recognize and stand behind them in their fight against cancer.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary for the East Wake Relay, which has raised about $1.7 million since its formation.