GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the River Bank Run returns to its May date, it’s kicking off a summer that business owners hope will resemble pre-pandemic times.

You could feel it in the air this week. That warm weather not only has flowers and trees popping, it also has people venturing out and returning to downtown Grand Rapids.

“We think it’s going to be great, especially with the weather turning like this. People love to be outside,” said Jim Lynch, owner of House of Wine on Monroe Center.

Lynch said he and his staff are ready for a return to normal.

“We’re looking for a really good return to solid business,” he said.

Along with River Bank Run returning to its traditional spring date, a more than 50-year-old tradition, Festival of the Arts, is returning to the first weekend in June.

“It’s going to look and feel very much like the Festival that you’ve been to before,” said Jeff Kaczmarczyk, who serves as secretary on the Festival of the Arts Board.

Kaczmarczyk says Festival, as well as downtown businesses, are anxiously anticipating the return to the way it was.

“We’ve been hungry to bring back our traditional, much-loved Festival,” he said.

“It’s been really awesome to see it get back towards normal,” said Alex Walters, the general manager of Freshii.

Walters said the restaurant is seeing more foot traffic and people out exploring downtown.

“We’re expecting business to get back towards pre-pandemic. Almost to the point where it’s hard to keep up with the demand staffing-wise, which is a good problem to have,” Walters said.

Lynch at House of Wine says when people do return in crowds, they’ll have more room.

“One of the positive benefits of COVID was access to the street… Even outside last year, you had to separate everyone by 6 feet. It’s less of a concern now, so we can actually have more people on the sidewalk and the street,” Lynch said.

Downtown events and businesses go hand in hand. The events bring the patrons, and the businesses are ready to serve.

“People come and enjoy the entertainment but often they stay later and take in the local bars and restaurants. It really is a win-win for the entire community,” Kaczmarczyk said.