By WCCO Reporter Pafoua Yang

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This Fourth of July marked one of the first holidays since COVID restrictions lifted in Minnesota — and Stillwater visitors and businesses certainly felt the impact.

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Brian Jones was visiting from St. Louis, Missouri.

“It’s awesome to see. I mean it’s a good community out here. You guys seem friendly, and it’s awesome to see everybody just kind of meshing together and enjoying the incredible view,” Jones said.

Fridley resident Elizabeth Lepsch says it was kind of a surreal experience.

“It’s almost like bizarre [laughs] to be out and about again without a mask, and being able to just have fun with your friends and not be worried about getting sick,” Lepsch said.

Since COVID restrictions have lifted in the state, businesses have also felt the positive impacts. Hunter Shriver is the house front manager at Mon Petite Cheri.

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Mon Petite Cheri (credit: CBS)

“We’re in the process of, yeah, really just kind of adjusting to the volume that we’ve been receiving,” Shriver said. “Awesome, a little difficult, but a really good transition.”

Shriver described Independence Day during last year’s pandemic, saying the two are incomparable.

“There’d be like hours sometimes where we’d see one or two people, if anybody during business hours, which is crazy to think about now,” Shriver said.

Despite not having a fireworks show this past weekend, business was still booming at Lora Hotel, located just a block from Mon Petite. Kadie Frey is the hotel’s general manager.

“With last year, we saw a lot more staycation. So, a lot more people from around the metro area that had never ever been to Stillwater, this year we’re seeing a lot of them come back again,” Frey said.

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While Stillwater did not have fireworks this past weekend, the city is scheduled to launch one on August 14. Businesses say they’re looking forward to another busy weekend.