Parking spots were hard to come by Monday afternoon at the pay lots at Minnehaha Park in south Minneapolis, where signs of the pandemic receded at the end of a long Memorial Day weekend.
In many ways, it resembled a typical spring day. After the rain stopped and the sun came out, people were walking their dogs, grilling, tossing balls around and just hanging out.
About a third wore masks.
The promenade above the falls was bustling as well. The only difference was the absence of the long line that usually snakes out of Sea Salt, the popular eatery closed to in-house dining because of the pandemic.
Alexis Pennie, 34, was sitting on a curb taking in the scene while sipping a canned craft beer. He said he normally wears a mask — fishing it out of a fanny pack as proof — but he had taken it off to enjoy the beer. He said he was wearing it when he bought the beer from a nearby store and was impressed by the store employees’ nonconfrontational approach to asking customers to don their masks.
He offered another, more practical reason for taking the mask off: The heat made it hard to breathe on his bike ride from his home in north Minneapolis. “I don’t see how people can run or bike with these masks on,” he said.
Temperatures were headed toward the high 70s, but there was more to it than a glimpse of afternoon sunshine. It was the first weekend since Gov. Tim Walz announced the end of more restrictive aspects of the stay-home order.
Pennie suspected his reason for coming to the park was the same as everyone else’s: “I wanted to see what the vibe was,” he said, while enjoying the summerlike temperatures after being cooped up for much of the past two months. “It’s good to see that people are still getting out.”
Nearby, Smiley Jackson and Andre Plummer were taking pictures with their son on a bridge over the falls.
Both had their masks in their pockets. Jackson said they knew about the dangers of the virus, but that they wanted to enjoy the outdoors on a nice day.
“We did, but we’re willing to risk it because we’ve been locked inside for so long,” she said, adding that they were being careful.
She added that if they got sick “it was meant to be,” and they would deal with it.