Thousands of people flocked to Lakeside Park in Kingsville Saturday for the return of the Highland Games. 

“After COVID everybody is looking to get out and get their yayas out and this gives an opportune event to get outside and mix it up with everybody. It's good to see the crowd,” said attendee Jeff Coulter.

Fans of the games lined up to watch various events spread out through Lakeside Park.

“It's so vital that people get out,” said Essex MP Chris Lewis. “Mental health is such a major issue that so many of us are facing so events like this get people outside, get people outdoors and get to enjoy a conversation again.”

Doug Plumb, chair of the event said not being able to build on the momentum created after the inaugural event three years ago was disheartening but is happy the tough side of the pandemic seems to be in the rear view mirror.

“A lot of people are in town, really wanted to get out and have some fun and they're here,” he said.

Those people were uptown sparking the local economy before making their way to the waterfront park.

“It really does celebrate the strength we have together collectively and celebrating the success for businesses that have worked hard and tirelessly to make it through,” said Mayor Nelson Santos.  

Organizers were anticipating well over 5,000 people for the one-day event.

“(In) 2019 people loved it. A lot of people said I regret that we couldn't make it for whatever reason and they're here today. There was a lot of buzz around town about this,” said Plumb.  

There was a buzz in the park throughout the day.

The tug of war had the large crowd electrified many times. Sherry Coulter loved it.

“The tug of war was worth the price of admission,” she said.

Mitchel Colomba was one of the tug of war athletes who fed off the energy from the crowd.

“This is a real great opportunity for us to come out and practice and the comradery amongst the crowd. This is really awesome,” he said.

There was food, entertainment, dance competitions, heritage and culture to appreciate. “

The thought of it being like history is quite important,” said 94-year-old Hugh McDonald.  

Former CTV anchor Jim Crichton served as MC on the main stage. He celebrated his heritage by wearing a tartan made in Scotland.

“I wear this in honour of my late father,” said Crichton, whose dad was born in Scotland. “I had it made a year after he passed away so it’s very special to me.”

This was a special event for Santos who is not seeking re-election in October. He took part in a Haggis throwing competition against local mayors for the last time.

Although he didn’t repeat as champ, he is proud to have been part of an event he feels is set up for long-term success.

“The experience you get to have here hands-on is like no other and that is what is going to drive success forward,” Santos said.