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Many firsts for 2017 Calgary Pride Parade, tens of thousands celebrate downtown

A timelapse of the 2017 Calgary Pride Parade seen from the Global News satellite truck
WATCH: Tens of thousands lined the downtown streets for the 2017 Calgary Pride Parade. Here's a timelapse of what it looked like to be in the middle of it.

Downtown Calgary was a noisy, colorful place on Sunday. The 27th annual Calgary Pride Parade started in the East Village and went down 6 Avenue to Prince’s Island Park, celebrating diversity and inclusion.

At 81, Lois Szabo is the oldest parade marshal of the Calgary Pride Parade. She’s lived through a lot of change, coming out as a lesbian in 1964. But she says there is still plenty of progress to come.

“There’s always so much more to do. There is still gay-bashing, the transexual issue, there is so much more,” she said.

“So I’m hoping that the young people will take the ball and run with it.”

Szabo opened one of Western Canada’s first gay bars, Club Carousel, in Calgary in 1967.

READ MORE: Calgary LGBTQ community members create alternative Pride event where uniforms are welcome

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There were a number of firsts for the Calgary Pride Parade this year.

WATCH: Calgary’s annual pride parade attracted tens of thousands of people downtown on Sunday. This year’s version of the parade will go down in history for who was included and who wasn’t. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports.

Many firsts for 2017 Calgary Pride Parade, tens of thousands celebrate downtown
Many firsts for 2017 Calgary Pride Parade, tens of thousands celebrate downtown

Tsuut’ina First Nation Chief Lee Crowchild became the first chief of a local First Nation to march in the event.

“This is part of reaching out across boundaries from Tsuut’ina Nation and the rest of the Treaty 7 community,” Crowchild said.

It was the first time Calgary Police Service officers were asked not to wear their uniforms in the parade. But that didn’t stop them from taking part in matching T-shirts.

Deputy Chief Sat Parhar was one them. He said he understands Pride’s request, but hopes that in time, it will change.

“Personally I’d like to see us in uniform. The idea behind the uniform is that when you deal with police you’re going to see a uniform,” Parhar said.

READ MORE: UCP politicians welcome to watch parade, but Calgary Pride is ‘not a marketing mechanism’

Calgary police participate in the 2017 Pride Parade for the first time not in uniform.
Calgary police participate in the 2017 Pride Parade for the first time not in uniform. Global News

“we want to show the uniform is approachable. And that is to show inclusively for our most vulnerable people because that’s what we are after.

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“I still feel proud that we are here. There are lots of places in the past we were quite successful, but I think there is lots of room for us to improve.”

WATCH: Calgary Pride president Jason Kingsley joins Global Calgary with details on what’s new for this year’s Calgary Pride Festival, including a new parade route and wrap up celebration.

What’s new at this year’s Calgary Pride Festival?
What’s new at this year’s Calgary Pride Festival?

Calgary’s mayor admits the controversy around the uniforms is a tough situation.

“There are lots of my colleagues from the police here. They’re not in uniform but they are here, and to me this is all about steps that we take together as we figure this out together,” Naheed Nenshi said.

“Human relationships are messy but we will get this right, And we will get it right with an element of mutual respect for everybody.”

READ MORE: Calgary councillor threatens to boycott 2017 Pride parade over police uniforms: ‘We’re not Toronto’

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) wasn’t invited to the parade, but were invited for the first time to the Pride in the Park event that followed the parade on Prince’s Island.

CBS changed their blood donation policy for gay men in June 2016. The organization won’t accept blood from a man who has had sex with another man within the last year. Before that, the time period had been five years.

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Some see that as discrimination, but Calgary Pride president Jason Kingsley welcomed their presence at Sunday’s event. He said Pride is willing to have a conversation with CBS about further policy changes.

Thousands marched in the 2017 Calgary Pride Parade on Sunday, Sept. 3.
Thousands marched in the 2017 Calgary Pride Parade on Sunday, Sept. 3. Global News

“They reached out and said, ‘We want to come and have that difficult conversation,’ and we’ve actually put them right next to HIV Community Link so we hope there will be some really collaborative and constructive conversation about some of the issues that are faced by individuals in our community,” Kingsley said.

READ MORE: Canada’s limitations on gay blood donations ‘ridiculous’: HIV researchers

There were 175 parade entries this year, up from 140 in 2016. Calgary Pride estimates there were around 5,000 participants with 65,000 attending.

The parade is the feature event of the 11-day Calgary Pride Festival.