VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) -More than 500,000 people poured into Vancouver’s West End today for the annual Pride Parade.

“If you don’t have a hotel room yet, you’re not getting one at this point,” says Ken Coolen, President of the Vancouver Pride Society.

Thirty-one years later, the parade still draws crowds from around the world.  “It’s huge.  I have friends who come from across Canada, from all over the US, and even from the UK,” says Coolen.

He adds our city is leading the way among the global LGBTTQ community.

“It’s important to see the progress around the world; we just saw New York become only the 6th out of 50 states that allows same-sex marriage.  So there are still a lot of battles to be fought just south of the border.”

Coolen emphasizes there are still some global human rights issues that need to be brought to light.

“The number of countries that still criminalize homosexuality, which is about 80, is a real concern. The very existence of millions and millions of people is still criminalized and we need to continue to raise awareness about that.”

The Pride Parade wasn’t always a huge event with corporate sponsors and hundreds of thousands people lining the streets.  And few know that better than Vancouver City Councillor Tim Stevenson.

He says back then people weren’t as tolerant.  “We were very apprehensive, scared and we all kind of huddle together.”

Today’s parade starts at noon at Robson and Bute Streets.