For nearly a decade, Paul Kaufhold and his son Nick have been in the stands at Coors Field on Opening Day.

Although the two grew older and saw players come and go, many things stayed the same, including the Cracker Jack and hot dogs accompanied by beer. (It used to be soda when Nick was underage.)

But not last year. Spring 2020 brought the coronavirus and the pandemic that brought baseball to a sudden halt.

But finally, on Thursday, the familiar aroma of peanuts, hot dogs and popcorn filled the air and you could see people in purple, black and white at every turn in LoDo. 

The Kaufholds were among the 20,570 fans — 793 fewer than allowed —  inside Coors Field to watch the Rockies' down the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers 8-5.

"Obviously we didn't get a chance to come last year, but there was no way we were going to miss two years in a row," Nick Kaufhold said before the first pitch.

"It's our tradition and it's just a really special day that I get to share with my dad."

Thursday was the first time in 550 days that fans were allowed in the ballpark's stands and bleachers. But the shadow of COVID-19 pandemic was still evident. Most fans wore masks and those who didn't were told by Rockies staff to put them on. 

Not everyone flooding the gates sported the Rockies' colors.

Many, including Eddie Velazquez and Tony Sandoval, flew in from Los Angeles to support the defending World Series champions.

They both attended one of the World Series games last year in Arlington, Texas, but now they wanted to see their team on Opening Day.

To them and many others, Thursday felt like a glimpse of normalcy.

"There have been a lot of fans out since this morning on the streets, in restaurants, in bars and although it's not traditional Opening Day, it still feels like it," Sandoval said. 

At the north corner of 20th and Blake two COVID-19 testing sites were set up. Joshua Copland, a nurse practitioner administering the tests, noted that despite the Rockies staff best attempts to keep fans masked, this was still a potential super spreader event.

"This is such a high traffic situation and so we just want to give people the option to be tested for that reason," Copland said. 

"Based on what I've seen today everyone going into the stadium have been masked up and social distancing has been enforced, but when people are walking to and from the stadium and along the streets it's been the complete opposite."

Nevertheless, Kent Cohen who was accompanied by his wife Julianna and 4-month-old son Huxley, felt safe at the ballpark.

"It was our first outing as a family with the baby and everything was great. There was a couple seats in-between parties and staff members were constantly wiping down railings and other high-touch areas," Kent Cohen said.

"We're definitely looking forward to coming to more games this season."

Dodgers fan Rich Chavez said some of the protocols were a nuisance, but he understood why they were in place.

"It was kind of annoying we all had to go one way and couldn't really walk around the ballpark, but I get it," Chavez said. 

"Hopefully by playoff time we'll be able to have the stands full, no masks, and the experience of a ball game will be back to normal."

At the Blake Street Tavern, two blocks down from the stadium, reservations were required to enter on what's traditionally the busiest day of the year.

Inside the tavern, the atmosphere and mindset echoed the LoDo streets.

"There's been nothing but positivity from our patrons all day," said Chris Fuselier, the tavern owner. 

"I've seen people today I haven't seen in a year and a half, and yeah, we've gotten older and gotten a little grayer, but everyone is just happy and ready to get back to some normalcy." 

For some, Thursday was an opportunity to create new traditions.

For Will Whitley and his 11-year-old son Parker, it was their first Opening Day at Coors. 

Parker Whitley said beside getting a new Charlie Blackmon jersey and getting a baseball hat filled with nachos, he was excited to spend time with his dad.

And miss school.

"Normally he's busy with work and I'm busy with school, so to do something together like this is awesome," Parker Whitley said.

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