By : Kirk Hartlage
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More than any other large-scale Pride-type event, Gay Days Weekend attracts every shade of the LGBT rainbow. It also brings an equally vast range of scenic views, not just from taking part in the numerous events associated with the weekend, but also from behind-the-scenes if you’re making it all happen. We asked a variety of folks, with a variety of backgrounds with the Weekend, to share their favorite mental snapshots. We also asked: What does Gay Days Weekend mean to you, why has it lasted so long, and what impact do you think it’s had in all that time?

While you’re here we’d like to hear from you – tell us how Gay Day is Your Day!



Wearing a red shirt to the Magic Kingdom on Gay Day is a rite of passage that you have to do at least once in your gay life! I think a lot of us went to Disney World as kids with our born family. Now, as adults living our lives out of secrecy and the closet, it’s like a homecoming in a way to go back with your “chosen” family and be your true self. I think that appeals to a lot of younger gays; it certainly does to me.

My most special memory was headlining at MGM for 8,000 people. There is nothing like that feeling of DJ-ing for a sea of people where you can’t even see where they end!

KRISTINE W, Singer at multiple Gay Days events

The first time I played Parliament House, in 2004, it was before I knew what a bear was. We went to sound check that afternoon by the pool and there were all these big, gorgeous hairy men: they looked like lumberjacks. They said something to me about a bear party that night. I thought it was something to fund the black bears or some wildlife organization. At the end I said some ridiculous thing, like, “I want to thank you all for supporting, you know, wildlife or something…” And everybody just busted out; all these butch hot beefy guys laughing, like I had cracked the funniest joke!

Later on I got the education on what an otter was…all the terminology. I finally got up to speed. We laughed so hard in the dressing room we were peeing ourselves; we must have laughed for a half hour. Even my backup singers – they’re from Orlando and in The Lion King show at Disney World ,these two hot black girls – they didn’t know what a bear was; they worked with a lot of gays in the show and they were clueless, too.

Years later, I played a Reunion pool party, when “I’ll Be Your Light” was really big, probably around 2007. It was an overcast day, but they had put all this energy into this amazing, massive beautiful pool party; there was a lot of people. It was an overcast day, and it started to rain on everybody but no one was moving. The promoter said there was no cover on the stage, so it was ok if I didn’t want to perform because I could get electrocuted. My sound engineer said it was really dangerous, because it was a lot of rain, and said that they should shut everything off. The promoter said they couldn’t, because if the music stopped completely everyone would leave and it would look bad. My manager said that, per the contract, I didn’t have to go on because the storm was an act of God.

But I said No, I’m doing like Diana Ross in Central Park and we’re just gonna do this; if I get hit by lightning or something, then I’m gonna go down doing what I love, in front of a lot of fun people that I love… so let’s do this! My dress, it was covered with butterflies, it was totally wet, I’ll never forget it. I still have it; it’s in my closet, because it was brand new, that some fabulous person had made for me. It was hand-painted silk, and all the butterflies were running. I can’t give it up because of the memory…

So, I get on stage, I start in to “I’ll Be Your Light,” and halfway through, the clouds part and this massive beam of light went BAM, right on the stage. It was crazy! I get goosebumps every time I think about it. That’s a song I had written for my kids, when I had leukemia and I thought I might die. It was a song I had asked JohnDeNicola, who had written “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” could you write me a letter to my kids, like a musical letter, in case I don’t make it out of UCLA (where she was receiving treatment). It’s such a special song to me, and that moment was, like, wow! We all had this moment of, OK, there is a God, and He’s smiling on us today! He’s letting us know He’s here. Because why would one beam of light hit that stage, right there? It stayed until the show was over, then it closed up and went back into a weird overcast day. We were all soaking; I didn’t wear waterproof mascara because I didn’t expect the rain. I looked like a hot mess!

When we’re there we go to the parks, we ride the rides, we kiki it up, let me tell you. I had some crazy hairpiece on one time – I can’t remember what ride we were on – and I lost it. It went flying and ended up in somebody else’s car. I got off the ride and some queen is standing there, he had clipped my hairpiece on to his head! It was a fabulous hairpiece – it had hair, and some jewels and all this stuff! He said, “I wasn’t going to give this back. I was going to sell it on E-Bay. But here, you can have it back.” It was hilarious!

JEFF JONES, Marketing and Promotions Director Hard Rock Live and Comedian

I have had the chance to have some great performances tied to Gay Days. The best was when I shared the stage and opened for the great Joan Rivers. It was amazing to spend time with her and get words of encouragement. To perform for over 1000 people was just icing on top of it.

BLUE, Owner The Venue, Performer at multiple weekend events

I started coming to Gay Days when I lived in Atlanta over 17 years ago. I wore my red shirt and then danced the night away at the boy parties. Once I moved here, I became very involved with Girls in Wonderland and have produced the Saturday night gigs at House of Blues for the past 10 years. I haven’t made it to the park and we usually work ourselves to the bone that I rarely even see a pool party.

There is something so wonderful about being at Disney with people of your own kind. We often are the minority in these cases and don’t have the freedom to be as “out” as we are during this weekend. It’s evolved to quite the family event, too. We can now get married, have and adopt children, and then bring those children to something that is part of our history.

COCO MONTRESE, Miss Gay America 2010, Top 5 finalist RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5, Performer Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas

GayDays has contributed not only to the tourism of Orlando but to all the social issues surrounding gay life, especially towards achieving equality for all people of all races, nationalities and genders! I lived in Orlando for 11 years and now being a Las Vegas entertainer I’ve spent the last five years in Nevada. I still look forward to traveling across the U.S. to attend GayDays every year because it’s such a fun time to reminisce and celebrate how far we’ve come and evolved.





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