DENVER (CBS4) – Travelers at Denver International Airport cued up in lines to leave and people knotted around the arrivals area to welcome family and friends on Friday. The airport expected 55,000 travelers and 324,583 through the Memorial Day weekend.

Kark Nerstad arrived on the first direct flight out of Peoria, Illinois on Allegiant Airlines in a long time. It was a bit of a celebration.

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“Oh we had snacks and we had everything,” said Nerstad, a grandfather who was arriving to see his son, daughter-in-law and their four children, who live in Broomfield.

“We’re both fully vaccinated as is my father in law,” said his daughter-in-law, Shona Nerstad. “So it’s easy to have him out and stay with us and celebrate some of the things we missed when we weren’t vaccinated.”

“We lost my mom about seven years ago. Her birthday was May 24. So, we’re going to celebrate my mom’s birthday too,” said her husband Brian.

The Hays family of four was heading to Arizona.

“First time on an airplane,” said Kara Hays about the long stretch during the pandemic when they did not travel. “It’s been over a year since we’ve seen them.”

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Their vaccinations are paving the way.

“I feel good about it, I trust what the CDC says, and we’re going for it,” said Kara.

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Other stories included long delayed travel, pulling family together who really haven’t done it before. Army veteran Forest Bradford waited for a nephew. His family was planning to get together for the first time in decades as his brother has been dealing with serious illness.

Split along racial and cultural lines (one side the family is Black and from California, and the other is white from Kansas).

“We’re trying to get all together before you know, it’s too late. So it’s going to be interesting to connect with my mom’s side of the family, and culturally it’s a different culture for us.”

DIA fell to 67,719 passengers in the middle of the pandemic during Memorial Day weekend in 2020. There will likely be more than 60,000 passengers this Sunday alone, the airport is still off.

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In 2019, there were 422,448 passengers, about 100,000 more than expected this weekend. This weekend shows more people are ready, willing and able.

“I just want to hang out with them and read books, and I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” said Karl Nerstad about his grandchildren.

Kara Hays figured her kids would be in their grandparents’ pool after their arrival in Arizona.

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“They are very anxiously waiting, and these guys are anxiously waiting to get spoiled.”

Alan Gionet