FOLLANSBEE - Mardi Gras is the theme for Relays for Life held throughout the U.S. this year by the American Cancer Society, and the Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life will be kicked off, Mardi Gras-style, with a parade.
While the New Orleans festival has a reputation for being wild, area residents can expect a family-friendly procession involving Relay for Life supporters of all ages when the parade makes its way from Follansbee Middle School to the Follansbee Garibaldi Lodge on state Route 2 at 7 p.m. May 28.
Dave Secrist, chairman of the Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life, said in addition to many Relay for Life teams, area fire and police departments, the Shriners Tin Lizzy Patrol, Tri-State Young Marines, Brooke High School Homecoming Queen Tierra Duffy and others are slated to participate.
At the end, a unit with the Follansbee Fire Department will collect canned goods to be donated to food pantries in Hancock and Brooke counties.
Secrist added it's not too late for others to get involved, whether they want to enter a float, ride in a vehicle or on a bike or walk. All participants will line up at 6:30 p.m. at the middle school.
For information, call Secrist at (304) 919-3960 or co-chairsTammy and Paul Hornick at (304) 737-3748.
State Route 2 in Follansbee will be closed from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 28 for the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life Parade. North- and southbound traffic will be detoured to Cross Creek, Rockdale and Eldersville roads and Mahan Lane, with Follansbee Police and private security personnel assisting along the route.
Secrist said it's also not too late for anyone interested in participating in the Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life, which offers fun for all ages while raising funds for cancer prevention, research, education and patient services supported by the American Cancer Society.
Last year's event raised about $88,000 for the cause.
This year's event will begin at 6 p.m. June 1 and continue until 6 a.m. June 2 at the Follansbee Middle School football field, with registration beginning at 3:30 p.m. on the first day.
Secrist said the event was moved this year from Brooke Memorial Stadium because he's been concerned, since taking over as chairman, about being able to safely move participants to shelter in the event of a storm.
The field house adjacent to the Follansbee field offers shelter within close proximity, he said, adding Brooke County school officials had no objection to the event not being held at Brooke Memorial Stadium.
"The board of education has been super for us. They have been very supportive," Secrist said.
He said the new setting also encourages teams to pitch their tents along the walking area, so no one misses out on the entertainment when they are taking breaks.
There is a $10 registration fee for each participant. The many teams taking part have included large and small groups of family, club and church members; co-workers, classmates and others who take turns walking laps through the night.
Individuals also may get involved and may be surprised by the many familiar faces they encounter.
A variety of performers and activities have been scheduled to occupy participants through the night.
The El Durays, a local oldies band; vocalist Toni Voltz, karate demonstrator Leslie Ciccolella and a Gallagher impersonator have volunteered their talents.
There also will be games for children, contests for Relay teams inspired by the Olympics and television's "Minute to Win It," a mystery auction, cake walk and an opportunity to learn dance moves ranging from the Twist of the 1950s to the Cuban Shuffle of today.
Area fire departments have again been invited to compete at 4 a.m. in a battle of the barrel-style competition testing skills they use as firefighters, and Cindy Petri, owner of Fusion Fitness, will help perk up participants at 5 a.m. by leading them in a Zumba session just before the event's closing ceremonies.
Secrist noted the reason for holding the event overnight is that it represents the journey taken by those battling cancer. Cancer patients can become weary and their situation can appear dark as they undergo treatment but there is hope, as represented by the rising sun.
On a serious note, the event serves to remind everyone dealing with cancer there is hope, through the first lap taken by local survivors of all ages; while also memorializing those who have lost the battle.
At dusk luminaria will be lit along the field in memory or honor of loved ones who have battled various forms of the disease. It costs $5 to sponsor each luminaria and this year participants are asked to bring canned goods to weigh down the candles in place of sand.
After the event, the food will be donated to local food pantries.
Secrist said there's no cost for cancer survivors to participate, and a free dinner will be served to them by members of the Trudy's Place Relay for Life team.
The parade is one of many ways Relay for Life organizers Secrist, the Hornicks and Sandy Yankura and many other volunteers have promoted the event.
To encourage awareness of Relays for Life held throughout the area, municipalities throughout the Northern Panhandle have been decorated with bows and banners of purple and white, the event's official colors.
Secrist noted Relay teams over the several months have raised funds for the cause through a variety of events and activities.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)