It was off to the races Tuesday morning as nearly 200 area senior citizens gathered to celebrate the opening of the 2011 Carbon County Senior Games.

The kickoff celebration for the 23rd annual event was held at the Lehighton Recreation Center, Eighth and Iron streets. This year's teams include seniors from Panther Valley, Lehighton, Palmerton, Weatherly and Jim Thorpe/Penn Kidder senior centers.

The opening ceremony began with a presentation of colors by members of the Panther Valley JROTC and the singing of the national anthem by Jim Thorpe team member Martha Moyer.

Anne Horrigan, coordinator of the games, welcomed everyone to this year's games and then introduced the guest speakers.

Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek addressed the seniors, saying that it was a pleasure to be at the games.

"It's hard to believe a year has flown by and we're back here again getting ready to compete," he said, adding that he wishes everyone health and happiness during the games.

O'Gurek then spoke briefly about a proclamation that the commissioners will be adopting in the seniors' honor on Thursday. He read the proclamation, which talks about the people who make Carbon County a great place to live.

Commissioner Charles Getz said that he is proud of the senior games.

"The Carbon County Senior Games are the envy of every senior games in Pennsylvania," he said, adding that it is the 185 senior participants and the volunteers who make the games such a success.

He then recognized those participants who passed away over the last year; as well as the students who volunteer at the events.

Getz ended his speech by thanking all the men and women who served this country.

"We have what we have because of what you did," he said. "Thank you to all our veterans."

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein echoed Getz's gratitude to the veterans.

He also said that he is pleased with how many people came out for the games.

Following the commissioners, Cheri Santore, director of the Carbon County Area Agency on Aging, addressed the participants.

She thanked everyone for making the games an annual success and recognized this year's sponsors, who made the games possible.

Santore then handed the microphone to the driving force behind the senior games, Victor Pituch.

Pituch, who has been leading the games for 23 years, thanked everyone for their love, help and support over the years.

"Thank you for having the confidence in me," he said.

Before the official opening of the 2011 Senior Games, Horrigan led the participants in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Senior Games Oath. She then officially opened the games with the usual saying, "Let the games begin!"

The 2011 Carbon County Senior Games will continue through May 12 for county residents age 60 and older. Locations for this year's events include the Lehighton Recreation Center, Panther Valley High School, Terpstra's, Jim Thorpe/Penn Kidder Senior Center, Heisler's Dairy Bar, Cypress Lanes, Fritz's Lanes and Baer Memorial Field.

Editor's Note: Daily results of the 2011 Carbon County Senior Games will be published in the TIMES NEWS. Grab a copy every day to see who is leading this year's competition.