Updated: July 16, 2021 06:38 PM
Created: July 16, 2021 05:51 PM
The Twin Cities could see some of its biggest crowds in almost two years this weekend.
Twin Cities Pride is returning to Loring Park on Saturday after going virtual in 2020.
Organizers expect about 200,000 people to attend, which is about half of what they see in an average year.
Festivities kicked off at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Friday night with the 9th annual Beer Dabbler, which sold out ahead of time.
Twin Cities Pride is known as the largest free Pride festival in the country.
This year, it will feature 300 BIPOC and LGBTQ+ vendors set up throughout Loring Park, along with food courts, a beer garden and music stages.
Organizers said ongoing concerns with COVID-19 prompted some changes for this year's event.
"We actually eliminated about 100 booths so we would have less congestion around the lake path," said Dot Belstler, executive director of Twin Cities Pride.
The Minnesota Department of Health will be on-site throughout the weekend to offer all three COVID-19 vaccines.
The parade, Saturday night concert and fireworks show were also canceled this year.
Despite pandemic-related changes, organizers expect the event will have the same festive feel as years past.
"Our Pride is like a family reunion we didn't get to have last year, so people are coming back to see family," Belstler said.
About 15,000 people are expected to attend another major event, which is taking place at the State Fairgrounds this weekend.
Street Machine Summer Nationals was canceled last year due to the pandemic.
It will feature 4,000 hot rods, muscle cars and street machines from all over the country.
"We have people from Indiana, Illinois, some from the East Coast," said Tony Veneziano, public relations manager of Bonnier Events, which promotes Street Machine Summer Nationals. "It's a place where people meet and just share their passion for cars. It's something that, once it gets in your blood, you love it."
The event includes an autocross course and car competition, although the highlight for many is simply walking around to check out all the vehicles.
"It's something we didn't get last year, so this year it's great to be able to do it," said Jeff Hossler, who's showing his 1975 Chevelle. "Get back to normal, if there is such a thing."
Coordinators of both events said they are aware COVID-19 cases are rising in many states but noted their large outdoor venues offer ample space for social distancing.
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