JENKINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Pennsylvania is slowly opening up after a year of shut-down COVID rules, and Monday we saw another sign of life.

The Keystone Games are coming back to Luzerne County. It’s a chance for the state’s best athletes to show what they’re made of. This year Luzerne County will host 22 sporting events for the 2021 Keystone State Games. Registration officially opened Monday.

“It’s the carrying of the torch, and you know it replicates the games so it gives all the children regardless of their level, the chance to experience that kind of competition,” Blue Ridge Figure Skating Club president and coach Carmina Monaco said.

The Keystone State Games will return to Luzerne County. Executive director James Costello made the announcement in Jenkins Township Monday afternoon.

“We are just so excited to have the opportunity to be back in business. Back in business here in Luzerne County,” Costello said.

The first event in the county is the PA figure skating championship May 8-9 at the Revolution Ice Center. That’s where we found 11-year-old Deanna Alston working hard to prepare.

“I’m working on my program. Lots of jumps, lots of spins, working really hard. Hopefully, I can do well there,” Alston said.

On the same ice where Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon took home the gold at the 2000 Keystone State Games before he became an Olympian. Costello says more than 300 athletes have registered to compete.

“Hopefully, I can be an Olympian one day,” Alston said.

The 39th Keystone State Games Festival of Sports will take place throughout Luzerne County from July 29-August 1, with COVID-19 precautions such as supplying masks and monitoring capacity.

“We have to trace all the parents that are coming in to watch the kids, but we’re excited to be able to offer anything. We’re really going through all the necessary things we can do to do that,” Costello said.

Executive Director of Visit Luzerne County, Ted Wampole says it’s a great opportunity for the county.

“That creates a great experience for the athletes and their families and it comes full circle as games’ participants and visitors support our NEPA businesses,” Wampole said.

COVID-19 precautions unfortunately means doing without certain events this year because of venue size or contact between athletes. Right now they’re not looking at doing swimming, wrestling, or basketball.

Keystone State Games also partnered with Geisinger to ensure athletes safety at the games.