If you couldn't attend Sunday's Pride Parade in San Francisco, hundreds of thousands of people lining Market Street wanted you to know you were missing out.
With raucous cheers and thumping beats, they lined up alongside barriers and screamed their lungs out with joy at floats, flags, flowy dance moves and colorful costumes that were on display from contingents and crowd members alike.
The parade is an annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community now in its 53rd year. With hundreds of bills nationwide aiming to curtail LGBTQ+ rights, the festivities are much more emotionally charged.
San Ramon resident Kirsten Hayden, who was preparing to lead a Cub Scout troop as part of a contingent with the Golden Gate District, said she was seeing "lots of happy, free people" Sunday. Hayden said many scouts "were super proud" to have designed flags as part of the required work to obtain a merit badge.
Patrik Reznik, who said he was seeking asylum as a Russian citizen, came with his husband from Martinez.
Holding a sign that read "Love is not enough: Protect LGBTQI+ lives," Reznik said he was attending his first-ever Pride parade.
"In Moscow, it was not really possible to go to parades because it's really dangerous," he said.
Swords to Plowshares contingent member Tramecia Garner came in from Tracy in San Joaquin County. In her third Pride Parade, Garner stood alongside co-workers as floats surged west along Market Street.
"It's a great event and family fun, but I'm here to support our LGBTQ partners taking up the mantle, especially now in this time with a lot of hatred and just bigotry," Garner said. "It's always a difficult time. There's no time that's ever easy. But especially right now, I think we don't have a choice but to push forward, especially for rights for all people."
First-time parade spectators Greg and Tami Martin were clad in San Francisco Giants gear, but stopped on their way to Sunday's Arizona Diamondbacks game to take in the display and the crowd. Tami Martin called it "a perfect opportunity to experience the sights."
Santa Rosa residents Lacey and Eric Christensen hugged as they waited for the march to begin. Lacey, who said she would march with Planned Parenthood's Northern California chapter, called it a great day to march.
"Even for me as a straight cis man, I think it's all the more important for someone like me to show up," Eric Christensen said. "I work in the construction industry. I think that there's a lot of like old school bias and old school thought patterns. So all the more important, I think sometimes for someone like myself to show up for my kid who is queer, and let them know that I want this to be a safe place for queer people who also want to be here to help support them and show that."
Lacey Christensen, who wore a T-shirt that said "keep abortion safe and legal," said reproductive health care was on her mind, especially given the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision limiting abortion access.
"I think what's happening right now is a travesty with the rights that are being taken away in America and even in California, where we're very lucky. We're seeing the effects of what it has on people, not just in their health, but their mental health, their social, economical futures, the choices that they have going forward without these rights that everybody else has really makes the impact on the rest of their lives."
A who's who of San Francisco politicians appeared in the parade, ranging from House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Adam Schiff to state Sen. Scott Wiener and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.
Wearing a color-splashed spike-adorned leather jacket and chic sunglasses, San Francisco Mayor London Breed took a moment to push back against narratives she saw attacking the city from outside, pointing to Florida's "don't say gay" policy and attacks on drag-queen performances in Tennessee.
"They can try to do what they want to do, but we know what we stand for," Breed said. "We know this is an amazing city of inclusion, of acceptance, of hope, of things that people look from all over the world and wish they had."
Breed touted the city's efforts to end trans homelessness, its naming of a drag laureate and seasonal appearances of the Pink Triangle and the world's largest laser rainbow flag display along Market Street as visible markers of dearly held ideals.
"People have tried over and over and over again to tear our city apart, but those of us who are here know what we stand for; we know what our values are," Breed said. "Here in San Francisco, we show love."
At the parade's conclusion, crowds descended on Civic Center Plaza where musical acts Kelechi and Saturn Rising performed a beat-heavy rich mix of covers and original songs after a brief set by Drag Story Hour drag performers.
"Has everyone heard of Drag Story Hour? It's just what it sounds like: Storytellers using the art of drag to read books to kids in libraries and bookstores," San Francisco drag laureate and Oasis bar owner D'Arcy Drollinger said. "Drag Story Hour taps the imagination and the power of the gender fluidity of childhood, and gives kids glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models."
At the 21 Seeds stage, everybody was dancing to a mix of classic uptempo tunes like Mac Dre’s “Feelin’ Myself” and Too Short’s “Blow the Whistle” to “El Sonidito” by Hechizeros Band. Nearby, at the intersection of McAllister and Larkin streets, groups of friends walked or sat and munched on pizza and corn dogs, bottled water and lemonade or beer and Dippin’ Dots ice cream cups, and many greeted old friends stumbled upon in the crowd.
"I'm from Melbourne, Australia, and I'm a long way from home, but it feels like family here today," singer-songwriter Alex Lahey told a cheering crowd before performing her song "Congratulations," which she introduced as being about two exes who got engaged to each other.
"I've done a lot of gay things in my life, but playing San Francisco Pride might be the gayest," Lahey added.
George Kelly can be reached at email@example.com