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Old June 25th, 2006, 11:45 PM  
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Name: Kodie
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Default Hundreds of thousands turn out for Toronto's Pride Parade

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out Sunday for the largest, noisiest, most flamboyant and probably happiest Pride Parade in the country.

Music blared, whistles blew and water-guns squirted as thousands of revellers, young and old, gay and straight, paraded along Toronto's Yonge Street in the midday heat to the cheers of residents and tourists from across Canada and the United States.

It's an annual event in Toronto now, and it's getting bigger every year.
Toronto Mayor David Miller was soaked by dozens of water-guns as he marched near the front of the parade with members of city council.
He took it all in good humour.

"We're here to have fun," Miller said. "But we're also here to say … that we respect their human rights. We respect peoples' life choices."

The theme of the 26th annual Pride Parade was "fearless," a reminder, organizers say, that gays and lesbians are still oppressed around much of the world.

"The whole concept is [to recognize] all of the freedom that we have here in Canada … cannot be enjoyed in other countries," said parade organizer Rob Malcolm.

Miller was fully clothed, a far cry from many of those in the parade. Costumes ranged from elegant suits, to tank tops and leather bikinis. Many wore body paint and not much else.

That didn’t seem to bother the crowds that lined the city streets, cheering as 147 floats cruised by.

The event culminated a week of gay pride activities that ranged from house parties to the Dyke Parade on Saturday, when tens of thousands of gays, lesbians and bisexuals turned out to cheer on their friends.

"People from all over North America are coming to visit and see us, so it makes me feel very validated as a human being," said visitor Susan Gapka.
Natasha Garda, co-chair of the Pride Toronto committee, said about 20,000 people showed up Saturday to watch the 11th annual women's march.

"It's definitely getting more significant each year," Garda said. "More people are coming out to support the women."

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