Thursday, June 08, 2006

Gay Days event was big success, organizer says

My friends Graeme and Klime are over in Florida, whooping it up at Gay Days Disneyland Gay extravaganza. If my memory serves me correctly Disneyland was pretty gay on a "regular" week of the year. When I went with my boyfriend in 1987, a cute guy jumped into our (2 seater) car just before we entered "The Undersea World" ride and fondled us for the next four and a half minutes.

It turned out that he was staff (Treasure Island) and invited us down for free coktails to his bar. Friendly lot the (gay) Americans. Orange Blossom Trail was pretty good fun on Halloween and the party at the Mansion (or Whitehouse or something) was pretty awsome. Anyway, lets wait and see what happend to Graeme and Klime.

Gay Days

Attractions and hotels are expecting a boost in crowds this week after Tuesday night's kickoff of Gay Days in Orlando. Organizers estimate a record 140,000 gays and lesbians will be in town for the 16th annual gathering, which has grown a worldwide reputation with six days of events that largely center on Walt Disney World.

While Disney, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando don't officially sponsor the events, they welcome the crowds.

"We've always seen more people in the parks during Gay Days, and we expect the same this year," Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said. "It's a great weekend for the city of Orlando and the community, in national attention and bringing business. There's no question we'll see more people in our theme parks and see more people staying in our hotels." The gay and lesbian travel market is valued at about $50 billion nationwide, according to David Paisley, project manager at Community Marketing Inc., which publishes Gay Travel News.

"The Orlando event has become a huge event over the past decade, one of the most popular gay and lesbian festivals in the country," Paisley said.

To show their social and economic clout, participants traditionally wear red shirts at the events, which are expected to pump $100 million into the local economy.

Chris Alexander-Manley, vice president of sales and marketing for Gay Days Inc., said exhibitor space at the event's expo at the Royal Plaza Hotel near Disney sold out faster than ever before.

The main event takes place Saturday at Disney's Magic Kingdom when more than 60,000 red-shirt-wearing Gay Days participants are expected at the park. There are several events planned throughout the day such as the 1 p.m. Lesbian Express ride around the park on the Walt Disney World Railroad.

The gathering also features Johnny Chisholm's One Mighty Weekend, a series of nighttime parties at the theme parks.

Disney tends to downplay Gay Days as just another large group of people who choose to come to the theme parks, and pay to hold a few private parties while they're there. Disney offers no official sponsorship and does not have any specific ticket packages for the event, though it becomes the unofficial host. "While we're not a sponsor of the event, we're certainly open to it every day," Walt Disney World spokeswoman Kim Prunty said. "It's just like with any private promoter, a private group, who would like to use our facilities."

While Gay Days organizers are steering attendees to Disney parks most days of the event, they have designated Friday for SeaWorld as well as Disney-MGM Studios. Universal has been excluded from the official lineup this year because the company didn't approach the group, Alexander-Manley said. Last year Universal was an official sponsor, and Schroder said it went well.

"We thought things went fine last year, and we're always happy to talk to people about new business," he said. SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides said the marine park also expects a jump in attendance as a result of the event.

"Obviously, you have a very large group, enjoying all the major attractions in the city," she said. "SeaWorld, as one of the theme parks, we do receive attendance."

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