On opening day the protest banners were a joke, as thousands of people pour into Orlando intent on having a good time, giving little attention to anti-LGBT banners.
Orlando Florida’s Gay Days Celebration is not a single event. It is a total gay and lesbian vacation experience. Gay Days is comprised of multiple events staged at world famous attractions, gay & lesbian clubs, and unique venues secured for the purpose of creating a gay and lesbian atmosphere at Orlando's greatest theme parks -- and at multiple parties occurring during this long weekend. We have young, old, mixed races and beliefs, parents, gay AA groups, and every other section of our community attending Gay Days each year.
The right wing of course declared victoryt his year, stating that their banners worked to keep people away. Well, let them have their fantasy.
Historically the annual event brings many thousands to Central Florida. Event organizers say over 150,000 people are expected in Orlando this year for the festivities. Macy's [in the Mall at Millennia] kicked off this year's Gay Days with a red carpet event. Gay Days is celebrating its 22 year in Orlando.
In addition to their red T-shirt day at the Magic Kingdom, there will be expos, parties and a lot of money being spent, event officials said.
"We've heard that they estimate about $600 million put out by this event. All the bars, and restaurants and Orlando premium outlets have been with us for nine years, and they said they see about a 350 percent increase in sales," Gay Days President Chris Alexander-Manley said.
Not all organizations are on board with the event however. For the second year in a row, The Florida Family Association plans to take their message to the skies over Disney to warn families. "How would you feel if you entered the Magic Kingdom anticipating a normal day of fun with your family, only to witness thousands of same-sex couples holding hands, hugging, kissing and wearing T-shirts that promoted their lifestyle?" the group wrote on its website.
Alexander-Manley said they won't be flying a plane, but that doesn't mean other pro-gay groups won't spread their message of acceptance.
This is freedom of shopping and dining, and we welcome everyone to come out and see what Gay Days is really about," Alexander-Manley said.
Others said they were also excited about the event. "Every year that I have been it has gotten bigger and bigger, and I'm so excited because we are finally getting out there and getting more known," said participant Terry Prince.
Gay Days began in 1991 as a single designated day (always the first Saturday in June) when the LesBiGay community and friends were encouraged to "Wear Red and Be Seen" while visiting the world’s most popular theme park.
From it’s beginnings (spearheaded by the GLBT Community Center, local activists, businesses, and the online friends and users of Compu-Who) with 3,000 attendees, this one-day park visit has evolved into a week long, citywide celebration offering round-the-clock activities including multiple theme park visits, cocktail soirees, concerts, and a host of internationally renowned parties.
Homophobia will be also be present for the foreseeable future. But as the GLBT are more visible and their values -- love, commitment, good citizenry -- is more on display, perhaps someday the right will stop fearing what they never understood, and and finally embrace them as good neighbors -- that are good for the economy.