Tens of thousands of people packed the downtown core on Sunday morning for the annual Pride Parade, the premier event to celebrate the LGBTQ community as well as inclusiveness and diversity in the province of Alberta.

The 28th annual parade took over 6 Avenue S.W. and filled the route with music, floats and many costumed participants before ending with a massive party at Prince’s Island Park.

Many people who attended say they came to celebrate the positivity in the community.

“I just wanted to show my support of inclusion and diversity. I’m actually part of the Pride employee resource group at our company and so I just wanted to show my support for everyone. Love is love and everyone should be equal,” said Lisa Fahey.

For some people, this year’s Pride is the mark of something very special.

“This is my first parade. I just came out this year. I’ve been living full-time since March. I needed to come and experience it,” said Donna Bataglia.

Bataglia says she has just had an incredible experience so far and has met so many people who are now good friends and companions.

She says coming out has been like a breath of fresh air.

“For me, when I made the decision to come out to my wife in December, it was just like this is what it’s been like for every day in my life and I had just hidden it for so long,” she said. “I just have to be me now. I’ve lived too long as something I couldn’t really believe in.”

Rhiannon Andrasta says this is the first time she’s attended the parade while living as a woman. She says that she wants everyone who watches the parade to know that they are regular people.

“To know that we’re just like everybody else. Admittedly we might dress more flamboyantly with flags in our hair but, yeah, we’re the same as everyone else and we just want everyone to realize that.”

Premier Rachel Notley marched in Sunday’s event and says that it is one of the best celebrations in the province every year.

“It’s just such an honour and a joy to be able to come here and show support for the community and to be able to be part of the community.”

She says that it’s unfortunate that the United Conservative Party wasn’t invited to participate in the event, but it all had to do with their track record.

“The fact of the matter is that the UCP very definitively has not supported the LGBTQ community over the course of the last year. They voted against Bill 24, they wanted to ‘out’ students who were part of GSAs who were not ready yet to share their story with everybody as defined by someone else and then they supported the nomination or the candidacy for nomination of someone who is very clearly making public homophobic statements.”

Another Alberta political party was in attendance at the parade and its leader said their presence was a milestone for the Pride Parade.

“It means so much to me, being the first openly gay leader of a political party in western Canada. This is a milestone for all of us and so important for the community and for Calgarians and Albertans to see that their politicians reflect the diversity of the province,” said David Khan, leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.

He says that Pride means so much to him.

“It just means being proud of who we are, inclusiveness, human rights, equal rights, equal opportunity. These are all phrases that are indelibly wound up with Pride.”

The Pride Parade is the second largest parade in the City of Calgary and has been growing every year since it began.

(With files from Jaclyn Brown)