For the 27th year in a row, seniors are gathering across Johnston County to compete in games and showcase artwork.
The opening ceremony to the Senior Games – two full weeks of fun for older adults – took place April 1 at Clayton High School.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun, a lot of good activities,” Clayton Parks and Recreation director Larry Bailey told the crowd gathered on bleachers on the bright, warm morning. Some were Senior Games veterans; others had come for the first time.
“It’s fun to see if you can do what you could last year,” said Pine Level resident Nelle Coon.
Louise Daughtry, 88, has competed in all but one of the Senior Games – the 27 years ago.
“I was working,” she said with a smile. Now Daughtry comes mostly to see her friends, “And I’ve about outlived them all,” she said.
She added with a chuckle: “I don’t know whether I’ll have any competition or not.”
Tom Harder, on the other hand, had just moved from Upstate New York and wanted the chance to meet people.
“I’m new to the area and heard about these Senior Games, and I thought it would be a great way to meet people,” he said. “I’ve signed up for golf, shuffleboard, the bean-bag toss.”
The crowd watched and listened as the Johnston County Golden Girls sang the National Anthem and Clayton High School students posted the U.S. and North Carolina flags.
Zebulon-area residents Charles and Carmen Creech carried the Senior Games torch part way down the running track and stood before the audience. Bailey explained that Carmen had just undergone treatment for cancer.
“I just finished with chemo,” she said later. “I’m supposed to be cancer free.”
Charles Creech said, “She’s battled it like a champion the whole time.”
After the ceremony, participants took part in a one-mile “Fun Walk” that circled the track three times. After the walk cane the football-throw competition, softball throw and spin casting. Later, people competed in track-and-field events, including the long jump, shot put and discus.
“The best thing about it at our age is the camaraderie,” said 59-year-old Clayton resident Luray Cooper, who jumped 12 feet 6 inches in the standing long jump. Also, “I think some of us are still chasing some of our goals,” he said.
With a run, wild leap and tumble in the sand, 73-year-old John Farr of Clayton made 10 feet 7 inches in the running long jump. Bystanders applauded.
Farr said he never did track in high school or college. He started doing track events at the Senior Games 10 years ago.
“I went to a little tiny high school,” he said. “My graduating class was 38 students. We didn’t have a track team.”
The Senior Games include tennis, shuffleboard, bowling, cycling, croquet and a performing arts showcase. A total of 276 seniors registered for one or more events this year.
A celebration, complete with a pig roast, will take place at 11:30 a.m. Friday, April 11, at the Johnston Wildlife Club on Swift Creek Road between U.S. 70 Business and U.S. 70 near Smithfield.