Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Relay for Life volunteers Kristen Blackman, left, and Amy Hutchins begin to tie ribbons on torches for the torch garden, which will take place during Friday's event. Seventy two torches will be placed in a garden in honor or in memory of those with cancer. The torches were sold for $50 each.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Friday's Relay for Life event at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds will have all the familiar sights and sounds -- minus helter skelter parking along Sugarloaf Parkway.
Due to concern for participant safety, grassy areas on the sides of Sugarloaf Parkway near the fairgrounds will be roped off this year, eliminating the popular last-minute parking choice for rushing Relayers.
However, an additional shuttle site will be made available as part of a renewed emphasis on improving the traffic and overall flow of the event that raises more than $2 million for the American Cancer Society each year.
"We've just been trying to look at the flow of last year and see where we can improve and how we can communicate better with the people coming out to Relay for Life," ACS Area Executive Director Bill Manson said. "We're working to make it a much more fun experience."
There are approximately 3,000 parking spots available at the fairgrounds, but with about 12,000 in attendance during Relay's peak hours, carpooling and a pair of shuttle sites are definite necessities, officials said.
The shuttle parking areas will both be located near in the intersection of Grayson Highway and Gwinnett Drive, just more than three miles from the fairgrounds: one at the Lawrenceville Church of God at 329 Grayson Highway, the other directly across Gwinnett Drive in the parking lot of the former Wal-Mart that is now the Gwinnett elections office.
Manson praised the Gwinnett County Department of Transportation for providing increased signage directing event-goers to the auxiliary lots.
"It's all primarily to help alleviate the congestion on Sugarloaf Parkway and to make an easier way to get into the fairgrounds," he said. "We're trying to be more Relay friendly, as also look at the safety of Sugarloaf Parkway."
Shuttles will run from 3 p.m. to midnight, and deliver all participants to Gate 1 at the fairgrounds.
Once inside, ACS senior income manager Linda Story has helped make the event much easier to navigate.
New this year will be directories stationed throughout the event with color-coded maps, a listing of team site numbers, food and activity concessions information and a full schedule of events.
Color-coded "street signs" will match the maps, Story said. Information tents will be stationed at each gate.
"Hopefully all of this will help people find each other more easily," Story said.
Those going to Friday's event are reminded to be at the fairgrounds "well in advance" of 6 p.m. if they want to avoid heavy traffic and make it in time for the survivor victory lap at 7 p.m.
For full information, visit www.gwinnettrelayforlife.org.