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GALLERY: Calgary Pride Parade 2017

Thousands joined in and watched the annual parade to wrap up the Calgary Pride Festival

The Calgary Pride Parade marches through downtown on September 3, 2017.

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The Calgary Pride Parade marches through downtown on September 3, 2017.

Calgary's Pride Parade was the place to be for people of all ages on Sunday, from newborn babies to the lesbian senior's group that marched just ahead of Alberta's premier.

It didn't always attract such a diverse crowd, according to attendee Chris McFarland. This year's parade was special for him; it was his first time attending as a fully 'out' man.

"It's really nice to see so many families here," McFarland said. "My growing up was not like that – the stereotypes of being gay were very prevalent, with AIDS and all the various things – so it's nice to see these kids are seeing things in different light than I was used to growing up."

His friend Zac Imler agreed.

"I think people shy away from (the parade) because they're not sure what they're going to see or what's going to happen, but in the end it's teaching people acceptance," he said.

The city has become more accepting of the annual festival, he said, since he came out at 15.

"It's not the same that it used to be. It's nice to see how far along Calgary has come, just being apart of it is amazing," Imler said. "My favourite part is seeing everyone come together as a community and enjoy being who they are."

The parade had its controversies this year, however, most notably Calgary Pride's decisions not to allow law enforcement personnel to march in their uniforms or let Alberta's United Concervative Party (UCP) formally participate.

A number of Calgary Police Service members did march in the parade with Pride-themed t-shirts and a banner that read 'proud to serve all.'

UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean's branded trailer was parked on a cross-street along the parade's route and fellow candidates Doug Schweitzer and Jeff Callaway took in the festivities as spectators.

Jason Kenney, who is also running for the UCP's top spot, did not attend.

Premier Rachel Notley and several members of her caucus marched near the front of the parade as they have in years past, including Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly and Minister of Culture and Tourism Ricardo Miranda.

Alberta Liberal leader David Khan, who is also the first openly gay leader of a major political party in the province, was also there, as was the Alberta Party.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi marched in his signature purple shoes and several Indigenous leaders also joined in, including Tsuut'ina Chief Lee Crowchild.

Ace Peace, a transgender youth who has been outspoken about his experiences, led the entire procession.

"It's cool to see trans people taking the lead. Twenty years ago (that) wouldn't have been the case, but now our city is changing," he said. "I love Pride, so it's great to be not only in it, but leading the way."

That's certainly a theme in Peace's life; earlier in the week, the teenager raised the transgender flag alongside provincial officials at the McDougall Centre in downtown Calgary.

He was also the first person to tell his story in a video campaign about transgender youth supported by Calgary's Metta Clinic, the only place in Alberta where they can receive the complete range of care needed to transition.

"That's just something I do, I like to pave the way for people," Peace said. "It makes me feel really good to know we have a whole city, basically, that is supporting us and behind us."

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