Washington (CNN) -- As winds, rains and fears calmed in the Washington, D.C., area Sunday, hundreds arrived at the newly opened Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Sunday afternoon to revel, share stories and celebrate.
Sunday's planned dedication of the $120 million Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington was to coincide with the 48th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and King's famed "I Have A Dream" speech. But while many of the MLK weekend events went ahead, the centerpiece Sunday dedication was postponed as the East Coast hunkered down for the battering winds and rains of Hurricane Irene.
As the clouds cleared Sunday afternoon, visitors to the memorial were greeted by blue skies and mostly intact bleachers that had been placed ahead of the ceremonies. Officials on site say there was little debris left by the time crowds began to swell, which meant a pleasant experience for revelers.
"I'm very impressed. It is done just right," said visitor Daniel Boyle from Virginia. "It's a powerful projection of Martin Luther King's personality and achievements. It captures it."
Boyle was accompanied by his daughter Ann from Washington, who noted that the atmosphere in the crowds was friendly and hopeful.
Many of the visitors had come from around the country for this weekend's events only to be stuck inside during the rains. Al Lee, a teacher from California, says he made the decision in January to attend the dedication and, despite the event cancellation, he made the most of the weekend.
"I'm glad to be here. I'm glad to have enjoyed the opportunity to be here. I'm blessed."
The memorial site, which features a striking 30-foot statue of King gazing out on the iconic Tidal Basin, lies between the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the National Mall. The statue, representing a "Stone of Hope," sits forward from a "Mountain of Despair."
Visitors pass through the mountain on their way to King's statue and an expanse along the Basin rimmed with an inscription wall covered with stone carvings of some of his most famous quotes. The 4-acre area will also feature the iconic cherry blossom trees that draw thousands of tourists to the Mall each spring.
In between snapping jubilant photos, visitors Sunday found much to reflect on in the writings and visuals of the memorial. Teacher Travis Parker spoke of feeling "refueled" after his visit, ready to take lessons from the memorial home with him.
"We've come quite a ways, but not far enough," Parker said. "The fact that we have an African-American president doesn't mean that we've arrived, but that there are possibilities."