By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — All across San Francisco’s famed waterfront from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Chase Center, crowds of July 4th holiday celebrants gathered Saturday, freed once again from any COVID-19 restrictions, spending money at reopened businesses.

Music filled the air at the first-ever Thrive City block party outside the Chase Center. People lounged in the public space as chefs fired up the grill, they also checked out food trucks and lined up for free barbecue.

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“It’s great after a whole year of following the rules, not going out, and now we’re finally safe enough to see other people,” said Brian Tang, who was spending the day in San Francisco away from his Fremont home. “It’s nice to see smiles again beneath the masks.”

Others chimed in, equally relieved and overjoyed at what a festive day it was.

“I love it, I can finally get some air and breathe,” San Francisco resident Derrick Mullens told KPIX 5.

“It’s exciting to be out, it’s very lively,” added Melissa Chavarin of Fremont.

The free event at the Chase Center continues on Sunday with more vendors, health and wellness sessions and kid friendly activities.

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“It feels good,” said San Francisco’s Jimmy Lopez. “I see a lot of people out here enjoying their time. A lot of people wearing masks, I got mine — I’m drinking but it feels good.”

Other San Francisco famous attractions were also seeing the return of visitors this weekend. Some checked out the Skystar Observation Ferris Wheel inside Golden Gate Park. Nearby, others lined up to get into the Cal Academy of Sciences.

The farmers market outside the San Francisco Ferry Building was also buzzing with activity. The line for Roli Roti gourmet rotisserie stretched for several yards.

“It gives everyone hope, that the normalcy is around the way, and having everyone’s spirits come back,” said Edison Urbi, Roli Roti’s chef. “So I think it’s a really wonderful thing for the Bay Area to be out and about again. It feels good for all the businesses too.”

To date, more than 80 percent of San Franciscans have received at least one vaccine dose, giving people more confidence to be out and about.

“It’s a little bit scary because we have a little one, but I think luckily we live in California, where for the most part people are vaccinated and if they’re not they’re wearing masks, so it’s not too bad,” said Sylvia Ta, who was in town from San Jose.

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Thousands were also expected to crowd the waterfront on Sunday evening as the city will once again host its annual fireworks display.