More than 50,000 people crammed into vantage points on, and above, Ponsonby Road, tonight to soak up the sights and sounds of the Auckland Pride Parade.
Leather, lycra, wigs, drag queens and glitter were in abundance as 48 colourful, and at-times flamboyant, floats headed up Ponsonby Road during the most popular event in the two-week Auckland Pride Festival.
The theme of this year's parade was 'TIME'.
Promotional material for the parade stated: "It is a time to remember. It is a time to shine brightly!''
And shine brightly is exactly what many of the floats in the parade did.
The parade set out at 7pm, after the ceremonial cutting of a rainbow
The six-strong ‘‘Dykes on Bikes’’ group lead out the parade.
They were followed by the ‘‘Past Pacific Pride’’ float which entertainer Mika stood proudly atop of.
The Green Party's float, which featured co-leader Metiria Turei in a wedding dress, received warm applause. Also present was fellow co-leader Russel Norman and several other Green Party MPs.
They were followed by a group of about 20 police staff walking up Ponsonby Road.
A delegation from St Johns Ambulance was close behind, including a vintage ambulance.
But the biggest roar for men and women in uniform was reserved for the New Zealand Defence Force’s contribution to the parade.
Soldiers, sailors and Air Force staff in uniform marched in unison, ahead of members of the NZDF’s ‘‘Overwatch’’ unit, set up to provide support for gay, lesbian and transgender staff.
The marching boys and girls group which was discovered at the 1997 Hero Parade was also back wearing their spandex, and little else.
Sport also made its presence felt, with floats from the Auckland Roller Derby League, Team Auckland Masters Swimming and the Gay Wakeboarding Association.
The wakeboarders proved that it was not just teenaged girls who loved One Direction, with their float pumping out tracks from the Irish chart-toppers as it travelled up Ponsonby Road.
The Pride Parade was not just a chance for the rainbow community to celebrate, but it was also a time to remember loved ones. The NZ AIDS Foundation’s ‘‘Remembrance Float’’ proved emotive for some lining Ponsonby Road. It featured oragami flowers and red ribbons.
‘‘The messages are for loved ones who have passed away but live on in our memories,’’ the foundation said.
Auckland mayor Len Brown, who helped open this year's parade, told Fairfax that the Pride Parade was an ‘‘important’’ date on Auckland's cultural calendar.
He paid tribute to those involved in putting together the floats, including some who had spent at least six months constructing their entries.
Labour leader David Cunliffe said he was also proud that his party was represented in the parade. He said Labour had a proud history of supporting and promoting gender equality. Like Brown, he said the parade was an important part of Auckland's social fabric.
But the early stages of the parade was interrupted by several protestors who had to be forcibly removed from Ponsonby Road after targeting the Israel Embassy entry in the Pride Parade.
The group jumped over barricades and ran up to the Israeli delegation, who had entered the parade to promote Israel’s own Pride Parade in June.
Police and security rushed onto the road and removed several people.
Pride Parade director Richard Taki said the protesters’ actions were ‘‘unsafe’’.
How they managed to get so close to the Israeli representation would be discussed in the parade’s official debrief.
LIVE BLOG RECAP
Our live blog will bring you the celebrations and costumes from the event, which is expected to have more than 40 entries.
The Parade will travel north on Ponsonby Rd from Western Park to Three Lamps, beginning at 7pm.
Ponsonby Rd will be closed to traffic from 4pm until 10pm and there will be parking restrictions.
The liquor ban in Ponsonby Rd would be enforced.
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