By Betty Yu

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Normally one of the largest tech conferences in the world, the annual Dreamforce gathering begins Tuesday in San Francisco as a scaled-down version of the behemoth it was in its bustling pre-COVID pandemic days.

Still, officials believe it is an encouraging sign of the ongoing recovery for the city’s convention industry. Last year, the raging COVID pandemic forced Salesforce to host the event online.

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“It’s nice to have the ability to come back and mingle with people, so I’m looking forward to it being smaller, so more interaction with people instead of these larger crowds,” said John Sterni, an attendee from Stockton.

Normally Dreamforce fills the streets with 170,000 attendees. This year, there only be around 1,000.

The 3-day event will disrupt traffic in the Moscone Center neighborhood as Howard will be blocked off between 3rd and 4th streets. Attendees will need to show proof of vaccination, and test daily for COVID-19.

“They are very strict, but I think that that’s great because then we really get to enjoy and actually make the connections that we need to make,” said Pressy Abraham from Philadelphia.

Big name entertainers will be back. Metallica will make an appearance and the Foo Fighters will perform live at the opening celebration Tuesday evening.

“We’re so excited to bring people into San Francisco, and to see San Francisco come to life,” said Salesforce President and CMO Sarah Franklin. “It’s a beautiful summer day, and we have everybody coming down to patronize local businesses. We’re employing local workers, we have that vibe here again in San Francisco.”

For the first time, the conference will be accessible to everyone for free through its streaming service called Salesforce+ (plus).

In addition to tech leaders, special speakers include actor Will Smith, actress Jane Fonda and Olympian Aly Raisman.

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Even scaled down, local businesses were calling the gathering a welcomed boost as they recover attempt to recover from the fiscal woes of the COVID pandemic shutdown.

“Bring it on, we’re ready! We’re open. We’re ready for people to come back,” said Forest French, general manager at Tabletop Tap House across from Moscone Center.

The sports bar and restaurant was shuttered for 14 months. They just reopened three months ago. The manager said they’re normally closed on Tuesday but will open this Tuesday thanks to the convention.

“It’s a start, it’s going to be a slow start but it is a start,” French said.

Nearby, at Joyride Pizza, the workers were also hoping for extra foot traffic.

“What I’m looking forward to is definitely having more events, having more people come here and enjoy this area,” said Joyride Pizza bartender Dean Cotrone.

What’s good for businesses is good for workers. Some of the them at the convention told KPIX they recently emerged from unemployment to work their first convention since COVID-19 struck.

“Happy to be here — 14-hour days, time and a half in overtime — it’s money!” said LaTonya Hartman, who’s working security at the Dreamforce convention.

Joe D’Alessandro is CEO and president of San Francisco Travel. He said the high vaccination rates in the city will encourage other companies to host conventions here.

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“Salesforce puts a lot of emphasis on this globally, so that’s important. Secondly, it’s important to tell the world that San Francisco is open. It’s open for business, you’re welcome to come here, it’s safe to come and meet here,” D’Alessandro said.