Auckland Pride Festival returns with a jam packed line-up of colourful festivities and a magnificent and mesmerising array of outfits to boot.

The two-week extravaganza will encompass three weekends and features more than 80 events – including local and international theatre and cabaret, comedy, dance, art exhibitions, live music, film and poetry.

For Auckland Pride Festival Board co-chair Lexie Matheson the celebration had always been a hugely important show of expression for the community.

"Pride is the opposite of shame," Matheson said.

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"For decades we were encouraged to be ashamed of ourselves."

But the festival fully embraced the "loud and proud" and "here and queer" mantras that encouraged people to express themselves.

"Nobody dresses up like we do."

The Auckland Pride Parade in 2017. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
The Auckland Pride Parade in 2017. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

The theme this year was Rainbow Warrior: Pride & Peace as a nod to the country's trailblazing history campaigning for human rights and to today's environment where LGBTIQ+ people across the world were still persecuted.

The Takatapui Maori Dawn Ceremony will mark the start of the larger-than-life festival on February 2.

Later that evening, the glamorous, star-studded Auckland Pride Gala will showcase talent including poet Courtney Sina Meredith, comedian Neil Thornton and burlesque extravaganza act Night Of The Queer.

The gala will be held at Q Theatre at 8pm.

Another major event on the calendar is the Ending HIV Big Gay Out outdoor festival which will take over Coyle Park on February 11.

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Matheson said it was the most family-oriented day.

The laid-back festival atmosphere was the perfect place to have a picnic or indulge in the snacks on offer with more than 100 food and products stalls on site.

At the tail end of the festival is the remarkable Auckland Pride Parade which takes Ponsonby Rd by storm on February 17.

The Auckland Pride Parade in 2017. Photo / Dean Purcell
The Auckland Pride Parade in 2017. Photo / Dean Purcell

Matheson said they had encouraged commercial sponsors to team up with smaller community groups to come up with the best results.

They had come up with wonderful creations that would be led by the Tangata Whenua float.

"Without forcing it we have managed to get 69 floats this year," Matheson said.

"People ask did you do that on purpose? No that's just how it happened."