Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of downtown San Francisco on Saturday as the annual Chinese New Year (search) parade kicked off with an explosion of firecrackers.

The parade, which drew an estimated 550,000 spectators last year, is billed as the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside Asia (search). This year's event celebrates the Year of the Rooster (search), which began Feb 9.

The parade featured 600,000 firecrackers, a 200-foot "golden dragon," marching bands, folk dancers and martial arts performers.

Among the parade's 25 floats was a same-sex marriage float with a three-tiered wedding cake and gay and lesbian couples wearing traditional Chinese wedding attire.

"The more that we are visible, the more that we are showing our community that we are here, we are about love, that we're committed, loving couples," said Jeanne Fong, who married her partner at City Hall during last winter's rush of gay marriages. "We'll eventually be so mainstream, it will not be a big deal."