Edmonton’s downtown was given some colour today as the annual Edmonton Pride Festival officially kicked off with its lively parade.

Organizers said it has become one of the biggest in the country with close to 30,000 people turning out last year.

“It started out very much as a protest and a march for equal rights,” Edmonton Pride Festival spokesperson, Terry Harris, explained.

“It’s really evolved much more into a celebration. Lots of education and awareness to do but it is much more of a signature event for the city.”

Officials said this year there are a record 80 floats and over 150 volunteers contributing their time.

The event will feature a family picnic, movie screenings and even a bus tour about the history of the gay and lesbian community in Edmonton.

Vincent Parnell said events like the festival and the parade work to break down barriers and stereotypes.

“It’s a celebration not just of our sexuality but how Canadians are setting the path around the world for human rights.”

The festival runs until June 16.

With files from Jeff Harrington