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This weekend’s Relay for Life has new schedule

By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post

For years, Rowan County Relay for Life began on Friday evening and ended on Saturday morning. This year, the schedule changes.

“It just got to the point that folks didn’t want to spend the night,” explains Tisha Goodwin, the event’s longtime chair. “Now everybody can get home and sleep in their own beds.”

This year’s Relay for Life kicks off Saturday at noon at the Rowan County fairgrounds, ending at 9:20 p.m. with the closing ceremony and basket drawings. Two popular events will still take place at the same time they always have, however: the survivors’ ceremony at 6 p.m., and the luminary ceremony at 9 p.m.

Goodwin will welcome the crowd at noon, followed by an invocation by Pastor Jill Smith of Christ United Methodist Church, and presentation of colors by the Lyerly Volunteer Honor Guard. Preston Tadlock, a junior at South Rowan High School and a one-year Hodgkin’s survivor, will sing the National Anthem.

Pastor Ken Reed of Concordia Lutheran Church will open the survivors’ ceremony with a prayer, with Dr. Gregory Mitri, Dari Caldwell and Jill McNeely reading the survivors’ names in roll call.

Bagpipes by Robert Patton will highlight the luminary ceremony. Wendy Baskins will be the featured speaker. She is the mother of Stephen Gilmore, who fought cancer three different times before he died in February. The Salisbury High School senior had received his diploma days before.

After the ceremony, all attendees are invited to walk one lap together before the basket drawing.

Goodwin hopes the daytime schedule will draw even more people.

This year’s theme is Relay All-Stars, and cheerleaders from area high schools will lead the crowd in a pep rally contest. The school that gets the most crowd response wins, Goodwin says.

Continuing the sports theme, local auctioneer Glenn Hester will auction off an autographed Dale Earnhardt Jr. racing helmet at 5 p.m., along with four-ticket packages to five NASCAR events: the N.C. Education Lottery 200 on May 20; the All-Star Race with afternoon concert featuring Andy Grammer on May 21; the LiftMaster Pole Day on May 26; the Hisense 4K TV 300 on May 28; and the Coca-Cola 600 with pre-race concert featuring Lee Brice.

“I found a similar helmet that sold on eBay for $549,” Goodwin says, “so somebody might walk off with a deal. The helmet or the tickets would be great Father’s Day presents for race fans.”

At 3 p.m., high school students will again show off their talents in the Relay’s Got Talent Contest, followed by a Mr. Relay contest that begins at 5:30 p.m.

Live music has always been a part of Relay, and that’s the case Saturday with Scarred Worship from 11:15 a.m. to noon, continuing after the pep rally contest, followed by Brandon Ross acoustic music at 4:30 p.m. and Kimberlane at 7 p.m.

Each year, Freightliner releases a special truck honoring veterans. The Ride of Pride project has taken place since 2002, and this year’s edition will be on display during Relay. The truck will ultimately travel to Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day celebrations.

Children can have fun at the bouncy house and pitching machine.

Good food has also been a part of Relay, and this year is no exception. On the menu this time around are tenderloin sandwiches, hamburgers and hotdogs, dipped chicken, brats, fried pickles, fried jalapeño peppers, ice cream, sweet potato tarts, strawberry shortcake, Cheerwine slushies, and much more. The South Rowan team has ordered 20 extra pounds of its popular peel and eat shrimp, according to Lee Ann Freeze, a Spanish teacher and longtime team leader.

“We usually get 120 to 140 pounds,” Freeze says, “but since we have two meal opportunities, we thought we would order more. I am really happy that young people are going to perform in Relay’s Got Talent. There are a lot of things that make this event more interactive and get our Relayers involved. And I am very happy that one of the survivors on my team is singing the National Anthem!”

“With the new schedule, people can come and eat lunch or supper, or both,” Goodwin says, “and the weather is going to be beautiful. It’s a good opportunity to visit and listen to music. If people have never attended, I invite them to come out and bring a lawn chair. I think they’ll be hooked and want to come back again.”

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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