Juliet and Candice Dutcher, like many others who packed downtown Sunday afternoon, weren’t alive for the New York City riots that inspired the theme of this year’s Seattle Pride Parade.

But at 43 and 33 years old, the Tacoma-based couple still have plenty to reflect on. When the two met nine years ago while working at a retirement facility in Sumner, their cars were the only ones adorned with the now-ubiquitous equality symbol — the equal sign that millions of Facebook users overlaid with their profile pictures to signal their support for marriage equality in 2013.

“I came out when I was 25, and my dad and I didn’t speak for three years,” said Juliet. “And now I’m seeing this younger crowd bringing their parents — it’s amazing.”

Perched on the lawn at Seattle Center, the end of the parade route, they say each Pride has ballooned in size. The changing crowd and the marchers have come to symbolize all that’s changed during their lifetimes, they say.

The parade this year broke a record for the number of participating organizations and corporations — a mixture of nonprofits, public agencies and multinational corporations focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people. They brought with them an impressive lineup of drummers, drag queens on tour buses and a  school bus filled with children.

But much more remarkable than the floats and organizations marching in the parade was the size of the crowd itself — a sentiment shared by new and seasoned members of the parade, which paid homage to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, violent confrontations on June 28, 1969, between police and the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, which marked the start of the gay-rights movement. 

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The sidewalks were choked with people, so crowded in some places that many retreated to the alleyways and side streets to take a break.

“I wish I had gotten a better spot,” said Karyn Borcich, 73, standing about 10 feet behind the crowd. On a whim, she rode a city bus alone for the first time to come to her first Pride parade. She was alive during the Stonewall riots, but only vaguely aware of its significance until recently.

“It wasn’t something we talked about in our home, unfortunately,” said Borcich, who is retired.

For 2 Seattle men, the legacy of the Stonewall riots still resonates after 50 years

Among the celebrations around the country, San Francisco’s parade was stopped for nearly an hour when demonstrators linked arms in the street to protest police presence at the march, saying they didn’t agree with inviting officers to mark the anniversary of a clash with authorities.

Chicago police canceled the remainder of the city’s Pride Parade featuring  Chicago’s first openly gay Mayor Lori Lightfoot, after thunderstorms rolled into the area. Thousands of people packed onto Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for the march.

Parades to celebrate gay pride were held around the world. In Istanbul, participants were forced to disperse after Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and in Singapore, participants protested anti-gay statutes. In Paris, crowds braved sweltering heat to turn out for the city’s annual festivities. Tens of thousands of people joined in Mexico City’s Pride parade. The city was the first Latin American capital to legalize gay marriage, in 2009.

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For Dee Christmas, who has watched Pride parades in Seattle for more than a decade, Sunday’s event was  “predictable:” a smattering of politicians, Dykes That Ride, etc. But the growing crowd of businesses and people — including many who don’t identify as queer — attending the parade was a welcome change.

“It’s a struggle being black and gay,” said Christmas, who said a group of boys threw gum at her while she held hands with another woman at Tacoma Mall 15 years ago. “You get the sense of community here. When others show up, they’re supporting the notion that everyone matters.”

Information from Seattle Times news services was included in this report.