By STEVEN NALLEY
“An Old Fashioned Country Fair: Remembering a Simpler Time Before Cancer” is the theme for this year’s Oktibbeha County Relay for Life, starting at 6 p.m. and running through the night to 6 a.m. at the Starkville Sportsplex on Friday, May 6.
Barbara Foster, co-chair for the Relay, said this year’s theme would make the relay feel like a carnival, featuring inflatables, a three-legged race, a balloon pop, a snake dance, line dancing, water balloons and a hula hoop contest. These games, she said, are meant to keep sleepy attendees awake during the night.
“We’ve got all different kinds of game breaks to break up the night and keep everybody moving,” Foster said. “We’re using this theme because it’s a time we all want to reflect on, when we can remember a simpler time before cancer. It’s going to be a wonderful family-fun-filled night.”
Foster said the relay would also feature carnival food, including popcorn, cookies and snow cones. She said the relay would also bring back a favorite from past relays, the taco in a bag.
“They have sold out every year,” Foster said. “Also, our entertainment is going to be outstanding this year. We’ve got Nash Street performing right after the survival ceremony.”
Foster said 33 teams had already signed up to compete this year, compared with last year’s 26 teams, and registration for the relay is still not over. Those interested in joining the relay can contact Foster at Campus Book Mart at 323-2844 or contact her fellow chair, Diane Holloway, at 418-0332.
“We even register right up to the day of the relay,” Foster said. “We’re growing and going every year.”
Teams competing in the Relay for Life work all year to raise funds for the American Cancer Society and then walk or run all night in a 12-hour relay. Each team must have one member on the track at all times, according to the official Relay for Life website. Foster said 100 percent of funds raised go to ACS, and while teams usually require a minimum of ten members, the 33 teams signed up this year come in a wide variety of sizes.
“Cancer never sleeps,” Foster said. “Three years ago, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s doing wonderful now, but you hear about new people getting cancer, it seems like, just about every day. We can certainly give up one night of our lives to honor those who have been affected by this terrible disease.”
There isn’t a prize for staying ahead of the other teams, Foster said.
“Our goal this year is $100,000,” Foster said, “and that will be the biggest prize of all.”
Sponsorship chair Robyn Havard said competitors can, however, raise more funds by earning the crowd’s favor at the relay.
“At the end of the night, people will have the opportunity to vote monetarily to support different contestants, and that’s where most of the money comes in,” Havard said.
There are also prizes for competitors in the event’s talent show, with the winner earning $500, second place earning $300 and third place earning $200. Foster said there were still a few slots left in this competition, entitled “Relay’s Got Talent.”
Havard said last year’s competition had focused exclusively on singing, and the committee wanted to open the doors to more different talents. However, she said, singers still dominated the current list of entries.
“So far, we have a dance group, and pretty much the rest are going to be vocalists,” Havard said. “We do have all ages, from the youngest to the oldest.”
Havard herself is a cancer survivor, taking part for the third year in the survivor’s lap, which celebrates those enduring the fight against cancer. While she always appreciates the survivors’ lap, she said, she enjoys too many of the things Relay for Life has to offer to pick the survivors’ lap or anything else as her favorite part.
“The actual night, the celebration of life,” Havard said, “That’s probably my favorite portion of the relay.”