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Wine Country Sees Surge of Memorial Day Weekend Visitors

NAPA (KPIX) -- In Napa Valley, there is relief that COVID-19's grip may be coming to an end. As a result, a lot of people are treating Memorial Day weekend as a kind of spring break from the pandemic.

The streets of Napa have not looked as crowded in a long time as they did Saturday. With many people vaccinated and a lot of restrictions soon coming to an end, the Memorial Day holiday had become the weekend to play.

"Feels like we're firing on all cylinders and the wheels are back on the bus," said Lindsey Gallagher, president and CEO of "Visit Napa Valley." The tourism group just opened its new visitor center downtown and not a moment too soon. The streets and sidewalks were full of people tired of sheltering at home and determined to have a good time.

"Revenge travel is one of the things that we know is going to be a trend for 2021," said Gallagher, "and we also are hearing a lot about it being the 'year of missed moments' and making up for missed memories in 2020."

Families and friends are meeting in large groups just to wander the streets.

"Well, looks like we were in a cave for 12 months but now we are all vaccinated and out!" said visitor Upasna Dixit, with a laugh.

"Just to see people, they are happy and they're out here," said her friend Lazli Srivastava, "that is nice. So we couldn't ask for anything more."

Call her a victim of bad timing. Katie Lewis moved to Napa about a year ago, just in time for a global pandemic and a catastrophic wildfire.

"I could tell when I had first moved, the streets were pretty empty," she said, sipping wine with her friends. "It was different from the Napa I had visited growing up. But now this is even more than usual."

If you really wanted to see what "more than usual" looked like, you had to go to V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena. Because they have a deli, country store and picnic area, it is one of the few wineries that people could visit without a reservation -- and they did. President Tom Davies seemed a bit stunned as he looked out at hundreds of people picnicking on his lawn.

"This reminds me of like, maybe, five or six years ago," he said, "not just pre-pandemic but, you know, the big days of wine tasting. I mean, it's crazy!"

Inside, there was wine tasting going on in limited numbers and that will expand after restrictions are lifted on June 15.

Allen Ahmad wasn't sure where they will put the visitors. His friends were already held up 45 minutes in traffic on the way to their wine tasting. He said he's not used to the idea of places being crowded.

"I thought it would be much more convenient for us to just go in and go out but that hasn't been the case," he said, looking around. "Everybody had the same idea."

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