SAN DIEGO (CNS) - About 100,000 spectators were on hand Saturday as the annual San Diego LGBT Pride Parade stepped off at 11 a.m. in Hillcrest.
More than 190 entrants, some waving rainbow flags, took part in the 1.1-mile parade through the heart of San Diego's gay community. The parade headed west on University Avenue from its start at Normal Street, took a left on Sixth Avenue and headed south to the end at Laurel Street in Balboa Park.
This year's parade highlights included U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning -- the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service branch -- leading the military contingent as an honorary grand marshal.
The San Diego Padres had a contingent in the parade for the first time.
The Padres were involved in a controversy earlier this season when the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus attempted to sing the national anthem before a game and was drowned out by a prerecorded song. The Padres later apologized for the incident, blaming human error.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was an honorary grand marshal. He was joined by several other elected officials, political candidates, a law enforcement contingent, civic organizations, nonprofit groups, city school officials and the Pride Youth Marching Band.
A two-day music festival began as the parade stepped off. The featured performer, Kesha, was scheduled to take to the main stage at about 8 p.m. tonight.
"People in 37 states and 14 countries have already purchased tickets to this weekend's Pride Music Festival,'' said Pride Executive Director Stephen Whitburn. "San Diego is among the world's most LGBT-friendly cities, and our festival is in beautiful Balboa Park, so San Diego Pride attracts people from around the globe.''
The Pride of Hillcrest Block Party is set to begin at 6 p.m. with a raising of the rainbow flag at University Avenue and Normal Street.
The Spirit of Stonewall Rally, which observes the 1969 protests in New York City, is also scheduled for a 6 p.m. start at Marston Point in Balboa Park. The keynote speaker will be U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning, the first openly gay man to hold the position.
The festivities come a little over a month since a gunman pledging allegiance to the Islamic State massacred 49 people at a nightclub catering to the gay and lesbian community in Orlando.
"This is a time for our community to come together and stand up against hate, bigotry and intolerance and promote equality and to share in the pride of our incredibly diverse citizenry,'' Councilman Todd Gloria said. The event has "had a unique ability to unite our city in celebration of diversity,'' Gloria said. He said attendees will be LGBT, straight allies, people of color, families and children.
The San Diego Police Department provided extensive security at the parade and reported no major incidents.
Details about Pride events are online at sdpride.org.
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