5 August 2023

The chariots return as Wagga's Relay for Life changes thing up

| Chris Roe
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Greg Johnson and Michael Gordon check out the chariot with Kate Kiernan

Relay for Life Committee members Greg Johnson and Michael Gordon check out the chariot with the Cancer Council’s Kate Kiernan. Photo: Chris Roe.

The annual Relay for Life has become something of an institution in Wagga, providing an annual opportunity for families touched by cancer to get together and walk laps as part of a team to raise money for the Cancer Council.

“It’s about the three pillars: celebrate, fight back and remember,” explained Relay for Life Committee member Michael Gordon.

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“It a time of reflection because you get a bit of time to think out there, walking around and around, lap after lap and they’re remembering loved ones that they’ve lost.

“But we’re also celebrating loved ones who have survived their cancer journeys and are living a second life – and my wife is one of those – and we’re also trying to make it a little bit lighthearted and fight back in the fundraising effort.”

The South Wagga Lions chariots were a big hit in 2019.

The South Wagga Lions chariots were a big hit in 2019. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga RSL is back as the major sponsor and marketing manager Jo Thomas said the event was important to the club.

“I think because we’ve got so many members that come in on a daily basis that share their cancer stories with us,” she said.

“We feel like there’s a lot of people in this boat so we’ve continued to support it because it’s close to so many members’ hearts.”

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Through COVID-19 and last year’s floods, organisers were forced to adapt and scale back the event and the team is looking forward to getting back to a full 24 hours on Conolly Park.

“It used to be a 24-hour event on a Saturday and Sunday and this year we’re still running a 24-hour event, but what it’s going to do is start on Friday afternoon and finish on Saturday afternoon,” Michael said.

“We still have the ability for people to come and camp overnight, which a lot of people love to do, but by four o’clock on Saturday, the event will be finished, people go home and they’ve got the whole Sunday back.

“There’s more of a focus on Friday night on the ceremonies and the serious part of the event, and then on Saturday there are lots of games and events like the chariot racing, AFL kicking competition, live entertainment, plus, of course, the traditional lapping of the oval.”

This year's event will see the return of traditional games like egg and spoon.

This year’s event will see the return of traditional games like egg and spoon. Photo: Supplied.

The old South Wagga Lions Club Chariots were a big hit in 2019 and Greg Johnson from the committee said they were back in tip-top condition.

“I rang the Junee Correctional Center and I said, ‘I’ve got these chariots I need to be done up and refurbished and painted’, and that’s what they’ve done,” he said, explaining that each will be sponsored and teams will make a donation to compete.

“They’ve got all different colours that are going to look great on the day!”

Michael explained that the success of old-fashioned carnival entertainment had inspired them to expand the program.

“The committee has decided this year to go back to a lot of traditional events like egg and spoon and sack races and tug-of-war and all that sort of stuff which people enjoy and it’s very easy to put on and it’s safe,” he said.

Wagga’s Relay for Life kicks off on Friday 3 November at Conolly Park and you can learn more or register a team here.

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