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Thousands pack downtown Calgary for 2017 Stampede parade

2017 Calgary Stampede highlights
WATCH: Highlights from the 105th annual Calgary Stampede Parade.

The 2017 Calgary Stampede got underway on Friday morning with the annual Stampede Parade.

The parade, which winds through downtown Calgary, serves as the official kickoff to the Stampede and features more than 150 western-themed entries, including 30 marching bands, 40 floats, 750 horses and 4,000 people.

WATCH: Leslie Horton hosted our broadcast of the 2017 Calgary Stampede Parade this morning.

This year, the parade began at the intersection of 9 Avenue S.E. and 1 Street S.E. at 9 a.m. and finished at the intersection of 6 Avenue and 3 Street S.E.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Neshi said the mood during the parade was bright in a city beleaguered by a prolonged downturn in oil prices.

“This year is special. We had a rough couple of years in Calgary,” Nenshi said as he prepared to ride on horseback through downtown.

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“Today really is a day for us to all celebrate and to really celebrate community.”

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Nenshi said he’s seeing a lot more optimism, noting Alberta added 41,000 jobs over the past year and the provincial government this week committed $1.53 billion to a major light rail transit expansion in Calgary.

“I wouldn’t say it’s unbridled optimism. Certainly we’re uncertain about the future, but things are better than they’ve been and I think most people feel that right now.”

Watch below: The greatest outdoor show on earth is underway as the Calgary Stampede Parade kicked things off in style. As Doug Vaessen reports, even with some big changes there was still a huge turnout.
Another huge turnout for Calgary Stampede Parade
Another huge turnout for Calgary Stampede Parade

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley agreed things are looking better.

“I’m not suggesting that the mood is completely that we are at the perfect spot,” she said. “What I’m saying is it is changing and people are finding things to be optimistic about because we are slowly turning the corner.

“People are looking forward to giving themselves permission to relax a bit this summer and so this celebration is a great way to kick this off.”

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The chiefs of the Treaty 7 Nations served as parade marshals, including Chief Roy Fox, Chief Stanley (Stan) C. Grier, Chief Joseph Weasel Child, Chief Darcy Dixon, Chief Ernest Wesley, Chief Aaron Young and Chief Lee Crowchild.

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Some 1,800 Indigenous people took part in the first Calgary Stampede 105 years ago and have played a big role in the festivities ever since.

Weasel Child remembers riding in parades with his father when he was young. He said being one of the marshals is a dream come true.

“It’s one of the greatest honours I ever had,” he said.

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Crowchild, meanwhile, has also loved the Stampede since he was young and was excited to ride at the front of the parade.

“It’s really hot today, so I dressed as light as I could,” he said. “I have a full beaded buckskin, but today it was just too hot to wear it, so I wore my summer outfit.”

Grier said it’s a historic event.

“It’s a recognition of bringing the past to the future,” he said. “It’s a recognition of the past and how our forefathers, our ancestors and the newcomers to this region had interacted with one another and it’s sort of a celebration of that history.”

READ MORE: Calgary Stampede midway food and drinks: what’s new for 2017

The chiefs of the Treaty 7 Nations served as parade marshals, including Chief Roy Fox, Chief Stanley (Stan) C. Grier, Chief Joseph Weasel Child, Chief Darcy Dixon, Chief Ernest Wesley, Chief Aaron Young and Chief Lee Crowchild.

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Former Stampede parade marshals include Jann Arden and Paul Brandt, Olympian Kaillie Humphries, actor William Shatner, astronaut Chris Hadfield, Man in Motion Rick Hansen, actor Christopher Reeve and Mickey Mouse.

GALLERY: Past Calgary Stampede parade marshals

Paul Brandt, left, and Jann Arden will lead the Calgary Stampede parade, which goes July 8, after being named parade marshals during a ceremony in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 8, 2016.
Paul Brandt, left, and Jann Arden will lead the Calgary Stampede parade, which goes July 8, after being named parade marshals during a ceremony in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 8, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Parade marshal and Olympic medallist Kaillie Humphries waves during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 3, 2015.
Parade marshal and Olympic medallist Kaillie Humphries waves during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 3, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary Stampede parade marshal William Shatner speaks to the media about the upcoming event at a news conference in Calgary, Thursday, July 3, 2014.
Calgary Stampede parade marshal William Shatner speaks to the media about the upcoming event at a news conference in Calgary, Thursday, July 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary Stampede parade marshal and astronaut Chris Hadfield waves to the crowds during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 5, 2013.
Calgary Stampede parade marshal and astronaut Chris Hadfield waves to the crowds during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 5, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Country music legend and parade marshal Ian Tyson waves to the crowd during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 6, 2012.
Country music legend and parade marshal Ian Tyson waves to the crowd during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 6, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter waves to the crowd as he serves as the grand parade marshal during the Calgary Stampede parade on Friday, July 9, 2004.
Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter waves to the crowd as he serves as the grand parade marshal during the Calgary Stampede parade on Friday, July 9, 2004. (CP PHOTO/Larry MacDougal)

The 2017 Calgary Stampede runs from July 7 to 16.

– With files from The Canadian Press