Edmonton Pride Festival draws crowds

More than 30,000 Edmontonians headed downtown Saturday to celebrate the Edmonton Pride Festival - among them, a group of homeless youths who marched with Boyle Street Community Services.

More than 30,000 Edmontonians headed downtown Saturday to celebrate the Edmonton Pride Festival.

This year’s parade was the largest ever with 78 separate entries, including floats, dancers, walkers, roller derby girls and bicyclists.

The show lasted more than an hour before winding up in Churchill Square, where the festivities will continue throughout the afternoon.

Jasandra Lee is a member of the Leduc Composite High School's Gay Straight Alliance. She said it's important to work towards building tolerance in our communities.

"Since we started the GSA a while ago, a lot of the kids have softened to the idea of gays and lesbians being in our school... and they treat everyone as individuals, as it should be."

Boyle Street joins the parade

This year’s festival held particular importance for one group of participants; about a dozen homeless youths from Boyle Street Community Services walked in the parade this year for the first time.

"It feels really really good — especially to see the amount of people that came out this year," said Connor Sims. "It just shows that Edmonton's coming a long way and they have come a long way."

"There's way less gay bashing than there used to be and people are just feeling more comfortable being out in public and just being themselves."

Julian Daly, the executive director at Boyle Street, joined the homeless youth in the parade. He said that many of the people he works with were kicked out of their homes when their families discovered they were gay.

"These are youth, many of whom have faced a lot of oppression and maybe even violence and certainly discrimination from their peers and even from their families," he said.

"The fact that they can come and be so open and so proud and so public in front of all the Edmontonians here today. That's obviously great for their confidence. It makes them feel good about being gay and proud to be gay, as they should be."

But Daly said there is more to be done.

"The battle hasn't been won completely," he said. "I mean, days like today are wonderful and everyone's out and they're proud and having fun — but on a day-to-day basis, there's still homophobia in our society"

Today’s Pride Festival comes on the heels of a historic rainbow-coloured flag-raising ceremony held at the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton Friday.

Edmonton's pride festival will continue through to June 16th.