1 of 2

Buy Photo

Casey Christie / The Californian

Members of team Destiny's Candyland cheer during the annual Relay for Life event in Bakersfield in 2013 while they walked to help raise funds to find a cure for cancer and further research.

2 of 2

Buy Photo

Casey Christie / The Californian

Thousands turn out for the annual Relay for Life in May 2013 including this group (Team Small Miracles). They show their enthusiasm as they pass by the main stage area at the corner of Merle Haggard and Airport drives.

Locals can be forgiven for feeling as if this weekend's Bakersfield Relay for Life cancer fundraiser feels a bit like deja vu.

This year, two events weeks apart vie for local donations to the same cause. Earlier this month, the 2-year-old Kern County Cancer Fund staged a Camp Out Against Cancer event to help cover travel, lodging and medical expenses for Kern County families affected by cancer.

Both sides insist there's room for the two of them.

"The only thing we're in competition with is cancer," said American Cancer Society spokeswoman Charaighn Sesock.

The Kern County Cancer Fund was created in 2012 following a rift between local cancer activists. Some had become disenchanted with the American Cancer Society, a national nonprofit whose donations primarily fund medical research. The splinter group wanted to see money raised in Kern County stay here.

The inaugural Camp Out Against Cancer earlier this month raised more than $300,000 from about 30 teams that camped out overnight at the State Farm Sports Village. Camp site teams competed in eight different "extreme games" including such challenges as a 200-foot zip line and a rock climbing wall.

Now in its 23rd year, Bakersfield Relay also has people camping out around an athletic field, but instead of extreme games, it's relay teams walking or running continuous laps on a track.

Bakersfield's Relay is one of the largest in the nation. Last year it raised nearly $1.7 million with 365 teams.

So far this year, 287 teams have raised $1.03 million. Teams can still sign up through Wednesday.

Saturday's festivities include a car show, hat contest, dancers and music. Shows in the past were local acts, but this year Relay has a nationally known performer on board. Country artist Ashley Monroe is headlining a 9 p.m. concert Saturday.

And something else is new this year: TV commercials.

"This is an investment in recruiting people to join our mission," Sesock said. "The Relay For Life in Bakersfield is a spectacular event, and when people come and experience it, we know they'll want to keep coming."

The commercials feature local breast cancer survivor Patsy Romero and local prostate cancer survivor Bryan Reyes talking about how they have benefitted from the American Cancer Society's efforts.

Romero, 70, of Bakersfield, narrates over a montage of her at home and at familiar local landmarks.

In an interview, Romero said she was thrilled when the society asked her to appear in the ads, which began airing April 14.

"I know that if it weren't for research, I wouldn't be here, or I wouldn't be enjoying the quality of life I am," Romero said.

Another first is free bus service to carry cancer survivors to and from the 10 a.m. Saturday survivors' lap. Buses will depart from the BC parking lot at University Avenue and Haley Street beginning 7 a.m. Saturday and continue roundtrips through 1 p.m.

A luminaria ceremony in honor of cancer patients who have died is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Luminarias cost $15.