As more activities return post-pandemic, the popular Palm Springs street fair Villagefest made its comeback downtown Thursday night.
Villagefest board members, city leaders and chamber of commerce officials kicked off the evening with a ribbon-cutting, and shortly after vendors were once again popping up tents along Palm Canyon Drive for the first time since stay-at-home orders were issued in March last year.
Susan Durazo, a local Palm Springs artist and owner of Sue's Illuminations Creations, crafts metal candleholders and depends on Villagefest to make her livelihood.
"Super great to be back the way we're supposed to be," Durazo said. "It's been rough for everybody. I tried not to let it be rough and tried to be positive."
As crowds of customers rolled through Thursday night, she said the best part of putting the pandemic in the past is going maskless. "Yeah, it's good to see smiles, teeth, happy faces, because you couldn't tell by the eyes."
Villagefest is taking a phased approach to returning, with vendors only permitted on Palm Canyon Drive from Tahquitz Canyon Way to Amado Road, as well as parts of Museum Way and Belardo Road.
Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege said with a limited number of vendors due to the reduced size, the focus is on local businesses and artisans. "It was a hard year for a lot of them," she said. "We're trying to expand that footprint, really make it a local fest, bring in those local retailers."
Excited to be back, pottery artist Mark Tran said the local support remained a constant through the pandemic, even without the street fair.
"The desert community really came through the last 15 months... called just to say hi see how we are," Tran said. "That meant more than anything – it's not just about the sales."
And visitors were excited to come back together as the Coachella Valley community united. "Seeing all our neighbors and friends, it's really great to see people," Palm Springs resident David Ligget said. "We were all told to be in our little bubbles, and now we can get out and see everybody."