RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gov. Roy Cooper was one of the first people through the gates as the North Carolina State Fair made its return Thursday after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Cooper enjoyed the food and talked with many of the small businesses in attendance before making his way to an on-site vaccination center.

“We’re following CDC recommendations and there’s no recommendation for masks outside from the CDC,” Cooper said of COVID-19 concerns at the fair. “I think if you’re in a big crowd of people and you’re going to be there for a long period of time outside, then you would want to put a mask on. However, one of the things that I’m glad about is that you can come and get your vaccine at the fair.”

Fairgoers showed different levels of comfort. Some people were seen wearing face masks and others were not.

Despite virus concerns, many people said being able to enjoy their favorite foods and rides provided them with some sense of normalcy and joy — something they say is needed after a tough year.

“It’s a lot of folks out wearing masks, and you see us wearing our masks. You see a lot of folks without masks, but with the distance and everything, it’s nice here. I feel comfortable being here,” said Doris Potter, a Dudley resident.

“After being stuck in the house and cooped up and coming out here for some family fun, it’s good. Good food, awesome prices, and prizes. I mean, what more can you ask for,” said Shanna Gibbs, a Durham resident.