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Trucks Against Cancer Parade kicks off Relay for Life event Saturday

By Mark Wineka

mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY —  A parade of 20 big trucks and accompanying motorcyclists will crisscross Rowan County on Saturday morning and serve as a kickoff to the annual Relay for Life at the Rowan County Fairgrounds.

The first Trucks Against Cancer Parade will leave the Freightliner plant at Cleveland at 9 a.m. Saturday and proceed to Landis, China Grove, Rockwell, Granite Quarry, Spencer and Salisbury.

The truck parade should arrive at the fairgrounds off Julian Road in the late morning. Relay for Life will run from 4 to 10 p.m., but fundraising teams typically spend much of the day on site.

Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Rowan County has a goal of $210,000. According to the Relay for Life website, some 45 teams and individuals have raised $55,067 toward that goal so far.

Pat Phifer of Cleveland is chairman for this year’s Rowan Relay for Life, and he borrowed the idea of a truckers’ parade from Charlotte County, Virginia, which has been doing it since 2000.

The Virginia parade has had as many as 195 trucks participating, and Phifer said it has grown to where the parade outdistances Relay for Life in raising money.

“Ours is small,” Phifer said. “You have to walk before you can run. It’s the first year we’re doing it, and we want to get it right.”

Phifer is thrilled that Daimler Trucks of North America, makers of Freightliner trucks, is participating with two of its “Ride of Pride” trucks, which are rolling tributes to the military, past and present.

The Ride of Pride trucks participate in the Rolling Thunder’s annual Ride for Freedom that will travel to Washington on Memorial Day.

Freightliner also will lend to the parade its Western Star Optimus Prime truck from the “Transformer” movies.

In addition, Daimler Trucks of North America will host a 7:30 a.m. breakfast for all parade participants.

Phifer said a special addition to the parade will be the Kennedy-Hall American Legion Riders, who escort the Ride of Pride trucks wherever they travel.

“This gives Relay the honor to help support our veterans, and in turn they are unifying and showing their support for finding a cure for cancer,” Phifer said. “I think this is a golden opportunity for the surrounding communities to come together for a two-part common cause.”

Many of the other participants in the parade will be independent truckers with whom Phifer is friends. He’s counting on them for fair assessments of how Saturday’s parade goes and how it could be done better.

“I know my friends will give me bone-curdling feedback,” Phifer said.

Phifer hopes the truck parade can become an annual thing for Relay for Life.

Trucks carry large banners across the front of their grills in memory or in honor of specific cancer victims.

According to the fundraiser’s Facebook page, all trucks are welcome. There is no entry fee, but organizers ask each truck to have at least one sponsor; $200 includes a banner.

To sponsor or enter a truck, contact Phifer at 704-267-5686 or kelly.hurley@cancer.org. Sponsorships are tax-deductible and support Relay for Life of Rowan County and the American Cancer Society.

Staffed and coordinated by volunteers, Relay for Life is held in 5,200 communities and 27 countries.

Here’s a rundown of Saturday’s projected route for the Trucks Against Cancer Parade:

• The parade starts at Freightliner at 9 a.m, going through Cleveland to Bear Poplar Road to N.C. 801.

• The trucks will turn right onto Bear Poplar, left onto Graham Road and right onto Millbridge Road.

• With a left onto N.C. 152/153, the trucks will proceed to Landis, arriving about 9:30 a.m. The parade will travel through Landis and China Grove on the Main Streets of those two towns before following N.C. 152 to Rockwell.

• The arrival time in Rockwell should be about 10:15 a.m. The parade will follow U.S. 52 through Rockwell and Granite Quarry (10:40 a.m.) before taking Interstate 85 North to the Long’s Ferry Road exit.

• Trucks will turn left onto Long Ferry Road and head into Spencer, arriving about 11:05 a.m. The parade will go through Spencer on Salisbury Avenue and into Salisbury on Main Street.

• In Salisbury, the trucks will follow Main Street south, take a left onto Jake Alexander Boulevard, connect with Julian Road and proceed to the Rowan County Fairgrounds.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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