Rick Claggett

Rick Claggett

It’s hard to believe this year marks a quarter century of Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom. You may know it by a different name. What was once simply known as Gay Day, you may now call “Gay Days,” ”One Magical Weekend,” “Girls in Wonderland,” or a variety of names given by various promoters throughout the years. This year, however, we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the first Saturday in June where it all began.

I didn’t make it to the first Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom. In June 1991, I ended my sophomore year of high school at Winter Park and had recently come out to myself. I didn’t know anything about the gay world. In fact, by the time I made it to Gay Day in 1992, I didn’t realize what I had stumbled into.

My mother would send all of us Claggett boys to Disney in celebration of each siblings graduation. Since my brother’s graduation was at the end of May, we just happened to go that first Saturday of June.

It took a while for us to catch on. We found it odd how many people were wearing red shirts, but we had no idea why. Finally I heard my brother exclaim, “Are those chicks holding hands?” The cat was out of the bag. We laughed for a second, not because we were making fun of them, but because it wasn’t something we were used to seeing.

My brothers and I had a great time, and the fact that it was Gay Day did not have a negative effect on us. We knew we’d be back the next year for my graduation. My brothers made it a point to tell me thousands of gay people would be out to help me celebrate.

I managed to make it down to Gay Day every year after my graduation. Gay Day inspired me. The camaraderie shared with such a huge group of strangers that identified with me was uplifting. I remember one year standing in line for Splash Mountain for what must have been over an hour and a half. The queue was full of red shirts singing, “If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands.”

Singing along with the Country Bear Jamboree and watching the 3 o’clock parade outside the castle also top the list of favorite Gay Day pastimes.

As Gay Day evolved, so did I. In 2002, I started working at Watermark and had the opportunity to learn about and attend a variety of events. During this time, Watermark still owned Beach Ball, the Friday night party at Typhoon Lagoon. I may be biased as an employee, but this was one of my favorite parties I had been to. Now in the hands of One Magical Weekend and called Riptide, Typhoon Lagoon remains one of the top events.

Something else I look forward to every year is the Gays Days Expo at the Gay Days Host Hotel. Parliament House also provides a fabulous super-sized weekend full of concerts.

With so much going on through the years, there were bound to be a few hiccups along the way. There was the year One Mighty Weekend fell apart. Also the year of Watermark’s Stratosphere party at Universal Studios. Although it was a great party, being a part of Stratosphere was like giving birth to triplets who all wanted to enter the world holding hands.

It is fun to go back and reminisce about the ups and downs of Gay Day. Perhaps what is most exciting is to go back to that first year and compare the idea to what the week has become.

Gay Day accomplished what it set out to do. Its goal was to provide something fun for the LGBT community while making LGBTs visible to the world. Congratulations Gay Day! And Happy 25th Birthday!

Watermark is full of pictures celebrating the past 25 years. Take a moment to flip through our scrapbook and enjoy the memories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Also, check out our GD 2015 Guide: Celebrating 25 Years of Magical Weekends for a full listing of the week long events.

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