[GALLERY id=3675 cat=regions/calgary]

The Calgary Stampede parade took over the city's downtown core Friday morning as an estimated 350,000 people, according to organizers, lined the route to take in the 98th annual spectacle.

Jet and Cord McCoy — who became known as the Gentlemen Cowboys during their time as contestants on the reality television show, The Amazing Race — marshalled the parade, which featured more than 260 entries, 3,000 people and 750 horses.

The weather was picture perfect — with a forecast high of 30 C — as a pyrotechnics show and a fly past by Canada's famous Snowbird jets got this year's event started.

"When the planes fly over, that's very amazing," said Ethiopian native Hareg, who was watching her first Stampede parade.

Daynah, 11, from Didsbury, Alta., said her favourite part of the parade was seeing her mom on the WestJet float.


Shriners in their mini airplanes fly through the parade. ((Bryan Labby/CBC))

The floats, bands and horses headed west from Third Street S.E. along Sixth Avenue, turned south on 10th Street S.W. and then travelled east on Ninth Avenue, ending at Fourth Street S.E.

The parade is the official kickoff for the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day celebration of cowboy culture that's been billed as the greatest outdoor show on earth since it was founded in 1912.

John Kucera, the 2009 men's downhill world champion skier, took part as the parade's celebrity judge.

The United Calgary Chinese Association took the trophy for best overall entry. The Royal Tyrell Museum's entry was named most creative. And Le Carnival de Quebec won for best horse entry.

Calgary high school band the Bishop Grandin Marching Ghosts won the awards for best Canadian band and best overall band. The Calgary Police Service Pipe Band was named the best pipe band.

"Wow, this is just incredible," said ice dance champion Tessa Virtue, who was in the parade with her partner Scott Moir. "What a turnout, and the weather's perfect. It's nice to switch the skates for cowboy boots."

The Olympic and world gold medal winners will be performing an ice show daily during the Stampede.

With files from the CBC's Patricia Ariss