2013-12-19 / Front Page

2014 Relay for Life to be held May 2; location still uncertain; kickoff Jan. 7 Washington full of visitors, shoppers despite rain, delayed Parade of Lights

By KIP BURKE
news editor


The float entered by Springfield Baptist Church sported bright Christmas lights and happy people greeting the parade crowds. The float entered by Springfield Baptist Church sported bright Christmas lights and happy people greeting the parade crowds. A dozen former volunteers for the Wilkes Relay for Life met last Tuesday to help determine when and where next year’s Relay will be held and to find a group of volunteers who will do all the hard work to make the event succeed.

Meeting at the Sanctuary Church of God, Chris Jones, the new Relay specialist for Wilkes County, heard from all the volunteers in attendance. They expressed concern over how the American Cancer Society’s field representative had failed to properly support the Wilkes Relay teams last year, and how much work it took from volunteers to carry off a successful Relay

Several of the most experienced organizers were doubtful that the Relay could take place since planning for a May event is already months behind schedule and no one had volunteered to lead the committee or play other critical organizing roles. With a late start and few hands to do the work, some suggested holding smaller mini-events instead of an all-night Relay.


Visitors for the Christmas Tour of Homes seek the shelter of umbrellas on their way between tour homes on South Alexander Avenue. 
(Story and photos by Kip Burke) Visitors for the Christmas Tour of Homes seek the shelter of umbrellas on their way between tour homes on South Alexander Avenue. (Story and photos by Kip Burke) “It’s discouraging to hear the people are getting turned off Relay,” Jones said. “We’re the ones who are supposed to lift you up and help you. But to not have a Relay – I don’t know how that would work.”

In the last two years, participation in the Wilkes Relay for Life has dropped dramatically from a peak in 2011 with more than 300 Relayers on 22 teams and 235 survivors, this year’s Relay saw only 173 participants and 17 teams.

Others said that they felt very sad when they heard there might not be a 2014 Relay, and that other participants felt that way too.

Despite the late start, Jones pushed those present to schedule the 2014 Wilkes Relay for Life for Friday, May 2.

Also up for discussion was the location for the next Relay. After several years at the Washington- Wilkes Parks and Recreation track, the 2013 Relay was held at the new high school and middle school complex, which had both positive and negative aspects, Jones said. Many of those present wanted Relay back at Parks and Rec for convenience, but others were concerned with the number of unaccompanied youth who wandered in, causing a security problem.

Jones suggested that the Wilkes Relay for Life theme for 2014 be “Candy – Life is sweeter without cancer.”

The Relay Kickoff event is set for Tuesday, January 7, in the fellowship hall of The Sanctuary Church of God on Tignall Road.

Rain may have dampened the turnout for the 2013 Christmas Tour of Homes and delayed the Christmas Parade of Lights, but Washington was full of visitors and shoppers over the weekend who packed the warm, dry stores in town.

“Well, the rainy weather hampered us, but all things considered, we were pretty pleased,” tour chairman Carol Jackson said. “Everybody was very complementary of the houses and they especially enjoyed being served eggnog at the Pope home and pecan pralines at the Ricciuti home. We did have people show up Saturday for the day tour, and we were pleased to see that.”

Crowds also filled Callaway Plantation, the Robert Toombs House, and the Washington Historical Museum, enjoying historic reenact- ments, period costumes and music, and authentic Christmas treats to eat. “Suzanne Carter and her volunteers did a wonderful job decorating for Christmas at Callaway, and we got a lot of compliments on how Callaway looked and how much there was to do,” Jackson said.

With crowds of people in town for the combination of the tour, the parade, and special Christmas shopping, the increasing rain changed the schedule but didn’t send many visitors home. After the intermittent rain Saturday morning turned into a steady downpour Saturday afternoon, parade co-chairman Blake Thompson cancelled the 6 p.m. event, saying that even if it quit raining by parade time, it wasn’t safe to prepare floats and other entries in the rain.

The parade committee postponed the parade until Monday at 6 p.m., when crowds again packed the city’s sidewalks to watch dozens of entries parade by. “I’m sorry we had to postpone it, but it turned out great Monday night,” Thompson said. “There were some beautiful floats.”

Although the rain interrupted many of the weekend’s activities, visitors and local residents used the time to shop in the many stores downtown and eat at restaurants. Merchants reported packed stores Saturday and again on Monday before the parade. “It was bee-yond wonderful,” said Mallory Banks, sales associate at Bee Southern. “The rain seemed to help us – we had a great crowd Saturday.”

“We had people ten deep at the registers Saturday,” said Pedal Pushers Christmas owner Henry Harris. “The rain didn’t keep people at home, it brought them inside to shop.”

Friday, December 20, will see the final Snowing on The Square event downtown, followed by a final weekend of shopping.

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