The event will take place Friday and Saturday at the Cleveland High School track rather than in downtown Cleveland, last year’s location.
While she said “everybody loves the downtown,” Angela Mathis, a senior community representative of the American Cancer Society, said the change will allow people to take part in the event together in one location rather than being separated by downtown buildings. Relay for Life was launched in Bradley County in 1993.
The annual Relay for Life event consists of activities that take place over the course of two days, from the opening ceremony at 7 p.m. on Friday until the 8 p.m. closing on Saturday. Luminaries can be obtained beginning at 5 p.m. and the first musical performance will start at 6:30 p.m.
While the event features a variety of activities, the main event is participants walking to raise money for cancer research and resources to help cancer patients. Mathis said the goal is to have at least one person walking at all times and that the event being at a high school track should make the walk easier than it was downtown.
“It got crowded, and we couldn’t keep people walking all night,” Mathis said.
Other activities at the event include live concerts and dance performances, a middle-of-the-night karaoke competition, a live auction and special walk laps such as one for cancer survivors.
Another illuminating activity is the luminary ceremony. Participants can purchase paper bag luminaries to decorate in memory of or in honor of friends or loved ones. All of them are lit at one time at 9 o’clock Friday night, and Mathis said they will line the edge of the track during the event at Cleveland High. She said the luminaries were limited to one spot by the Courthouse last year.
While the Relay For Life event focuses on the memories of those whose lives have been cut short by cancer, Mathis said it is also a time for celebrating the survivors and expressing hope in others being able to overcome their cancer battles as well.
“It’s kind of like a festival feel,” Mathis said.
The 20th year of the Relay For Life event will also be the first for a brand new event — a 5K (3.1 mile) run in addition to the walk. Mathis said people had expressed interest in having a running event in the spring or summer in addition to the Reindeer Run event in December, so organizers decided to add a run to the festivities.
The 5K will take place on Saturday at 8 a.m., and runners will begin with a lap around the track and continue onto the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway before the run ends back at the track.
The majority of those who have committed to being involved with this year’s events are on teams sponsored by local companies and other groups. Mathis said there are 50 teams taking part so far. However, she said anyone can feel free to stop by and be part of the events whether or not they have registered ahead of time.
Activities are planned throughout the day and night, with some of them even taking place between 1 and 5 a.m.
“I think it’s important for people to come and support our survivors,” Mathis said.
The event raised $253,000 last year, and Mathis said the goal is to raise that number by a couple thousand to hit the $255,000 mark. Last year’s numbers gave Bradley County the distinction of being one of the top five Relay events in Tennessee by funds raised per capita, she added.
For more information about this weekend’s Relay For Life observance, visit http://www.relayforlife.org/bradleytn or find the “Relay For Life of Bradley County” page on Facebook.