Kevin Moller spends a lot of time at Elitch Gardens every year.
The self-proclaimed regular and amusement park enthusiast said he's visited the park every day it's been open since 1995, and in the process has become close friends with many of the employees, whom he considers family.
But last year, Moller, like everyone else, wasn't allowed to enter the park as it remained closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I'm on disability, so this gives me a chance to get out of the house and interact with people," Moller said. "The staff here is like my family, so it was hard to not go last year."
But on Saturday, Moller was among 6,800 guests — 43% of Elitch's normal capacity without the water park — who entered the Auraria neighborhood amusement park for the first time since Nov. 3, 2019.
Matthew Cisneros and his family lined up at 7:00 a.m. to be the first non-pasa holders inside Elitch Garden since 2019.They’ll be headed to the kiddie park immediately as its Michael, 4, first visit to the amusement park. pic.twitter.com/m7muMDvBrj— David Mullen (@mullen_david) May 1, 2021
"We're excited," said Cisnero's wife, Crystal Medina, prior to being admitted into the park. "We got our passes at the beginning of the week so we could be ready for today, and we wanted to be one of the first ones in."
Cisneros said Saturday's reopening to the public gave the family an opportunity to get outside of the house, but also have their 4-year-old son, Isiah, experience an amusement park for the first time.
Following the tradition of playing the national anthem to open the day at the park, many park guests -- all wearing masks -- ran to the Mind Eraser, the Brain Drain and Twister II.
After being held in the front of the park, guests are now being able to go have some fun and get on the rides pic.twitter.com/jysSry1Jgl— David Mullen (@mullen_david) May 1, 2021
The park now requires masks to be worn at all times and has implemented new procedures such as sanitizing rides and high-touch areas frequently. Hand sanitization stations have also been installed around the park and at each of the rides' entrances and exits, said Jolie DuBois, the park's marketing manager.
"The staff is walking around and making sure everyone's wearing their masks, there's social distancing in the lines, so everything they've done has been great and we feel really safe," said Aaron Cuevas, who just finished riding the Tower of Doom.
Saturday's grand reopening to the general public wasn't only exciting for the guests, but park officials as well, DuBois said.
"We're all really excited to welcome people back," DuBois said. "It's been a long time and it's our 130th season, and we're just so excited to do it safely."
To Tim Glennie of Denver, it wasn't about the rides, funnel cakes or Dippin' Dots. It was about spending time with his sons, Logan and Rhett.
"This is something that we couldn't do last year, so it's nice to be able to have options and spend time with my family," Glennie said.