Calgary celebrates its largest pride parade ever

Calgary's pride parade featured more than 4,000 participants this year, a far cry from the days when 2016's parade marshal didn't even feel safe attending the event in the 90s.

Thousands marched and thousands more lined the streets as colourful parade winds through downtown

Organizers say 2016 biggest year ever 0:37

Calgary's pride parade featured more than 4,000 participants this year, a far cry from the days when 2016's parade marshal didn't even feel safe attending the event in the '90s.

"I never went to the pride parade when I was living in Calgary because I was living at home and it wasn't safe for me. So to have this many people here, I feel safer, and I think a lot of people do," said Rae Spoon.

Revellers take part in Calgary's 2016 Pride Parade on Sunday. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Over 60,000 spectators were expected for Sunday's celebrations, the largest pride parade in Calgary's history, according to parade co-director Craig Sklenar.

Prior to the event, Alberta premier Rachel Notley mused on how far Alberta has come in such a short time. 

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley walked in the pride parade on Sunday, along with several of her NDP colleagues. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"When I first got elected to the legislature we still didn't have stipulated protection for people based on sexual orientation in the human rights code," she said. 

"I think what's even more important is that it's no longer acceptable in the legislature to articulate some of the kinds of things that were being articulated even when I first got elected in 2008."

A participant marches in the parade on Sunday. Despite the cool weather, thousands lined the route. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Notley cautioned, however, that work towards acceptance and inclusivity is never done and there is still more to be done.

Spoon, who said it was a "huge surprise" to be a marshal of any parade, highlighted some of the tensions leading up to this year's march, with calls for police to be banned from marching in their uniforms. 

Calgary police march in the pride parade. A group calling itself Voices, the coalition of Calgary's People of Colour, had asked that police not wear their uniforms, but parade organizers rejected the idea. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

"Within Calgary, there has been some conflict around this pride parade with Voices, the Coalition for People of Colour in Calgary," they said. 

"So I think there's a lot of development happening with negotiations between them and the Calgary Police Services. And that's happening in prides across Canada. I think an issue that we have to work on in prides in general, is racism."

Some participants bared their chests while wearing short shorts. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

Deputy mayor Richard Pootmans said pride is an important event for Calgary.

"We can't define ourselves by commodity prices or economic cycles," he said. "Our city is about people and we will succeed if we continue to focus on that — the opportunity for everybody to participate."

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith takes part in the celebrations. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Pride celebrations continued until 6 p.m. in Shaw Millennium Park.

With files from Andrew Brown