What started out nearly three decades ago as a day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom for LGBTQ families has turned into one of the largest, and most lucrative, LGBTQ events in the world.
The first week of June in Central Florida brings over 150,000 LGBTQ people from across the globe to the state and generates millions of dollars every year for the local economy, and this year is without exception.
“Ticket sales are steady and on par from last year and we are estimating more than 185,000 people will be here for GayDayS,” says GayDayS creative director Steve Erics.
GayDayS, along with One Magical Weekend, Girls In Wonderland and the Parliament House have planned and put together events, parties and surprises across Central Florida that will have you bathing in beauty and soaking up the sun.
GayDayS will get the adrenaline moving through your veins as you enter into the Big Top for GayDayS’ Circus at the DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld.
“GayDayS will be very immersive this year,” Erics says. “The lobby will be filled with atmospheric performers, so you may be greeted by the ringmaster or stilt-walkers. Some crazy and interesting stuff will be going on. I can’t tell you all of the surprises but we can tease you a bit.”
“When I came on in 2013, GayDayS was not at any Disney properties. So it is great that we are going back,” Erics says.
Erics will host the event alongside RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Coco Montrese, and will feature appearances by drag performers Miss GayDayS Alexis Mateo, Roxy Brooks and a few of this year’s Miss GayDayS competitors.
“We will also be kicking off with one of our big GayDayS surprises,” Erics says. “I can’t say much but it does involve entertainment from Mathew Knowles’ camp.”
Knowles, who is a talent manager and father to Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, will have a presence with GayDayS throughout the week.
GayDayS is notorious for throwing epic pool parties and this year the water will continue to splash. In the past, they have featured separate pools for different groups, at times having a separate bear pool, lesbian pool and Latin pool. This year they have done away with the segregation and will feature two pools: the main pool will be called the Midway and will be the sight of each day’s themed pool party, and the Arena will be a non-themed pool party.
The pool parties start May 31 with a welcome pool party at the Midway pool starting at noon.
“Wednesday’s pool party is a more laidback and chill party as people are starting to arrive for the week,” Erics says. “When you get to the pool party on Thursday you will definitely find out why it is called Freakshow. That’s all I am going to say about that.”
“BearWatch is hosted by the very David Hasselhoffian Bearonce Growles and will feature bear go-go dancers,” Erics says.
Saturday’s big GLOW pool party, Illumin8, will feature Chi Chi LaRue and gay porn stars Jack Hunter, Sean Duran and Wesley Woods.
Alongside the pool parties at the DoubleTree will be GayDayS’ Sideshow Expo running June 1- 4.
“The expos will have over 150 vendors and they are all free to attend,” Erics says. “It’s one of the largest Gay and Lesbian Expos in the U.S., second only to New York’s LGBT Expo.”
GayDayS will feature three types of expos: the traditional expo, an 18-and-up expo with more adult-themed vendors and the auxiliary expo featuring non-profits and pet adoptions.
Taste of GayDayS, one of their most anticipated events each year, returns June 1.
“There are a lot more food vendors this year,” Eric says. “Taste of GayDayS is a production in itself, and with the theme being Circus, you can expect to see the aerialists to come back. We have another group coming from DreamWorld in Los Angeles that will make an appearance as well. I can’t say who they are.”
Miss GayDayS Alexis Mateo will relinquish her crown June 2 at the Miss GayDayS pageant hosted by Chi Chi LaRue and Coco Montrese as nearly a dozen queens will vie for the title.
“The pageant theme is ‘Inspirations of Tim Burton.’ So if you are a fan, you definitely want to be at this pageant because it is going to be really dark,” Erics says.
The most talked about event for GayDayS is also the one Erics can say the least about. GayDayS will partner with the onePULSE Foundation for Love, a cabaret-style, Broadway-based show June 3.
The 90-minute show opens with “Willkommen” from the Broadway musical Cabaret.
“And then you’ll just have to check out the show to find out more,” Erics says. “What I can say is we filtered through 150 applications and narrowed it down to 13 performers. The show will entertain and will honor the memory of the 49 souls we lost and support the survivors of the Pulse tragedy. There will be some heavy hitters and awesome performers there from all over. Two of the acts will be performing their new singles for the first time at GayDayS.”
All proceeds from the Love cabaret show and GayDayS kickoff party will go to the onePULSE Foundation.
One Magical Weekend
One Magical Weekend is back at the B Resort and ready to bring you all the Disney magic you expect from Orlando.
“Almost everything we do this year is at Disney resorts,” says One Magical Weekend’s Tom Christ. “When people think of Orlando and this time of year, they think of Disney. So from Typhoon Lagoon to the House of Blues to the B Resort, nearly the entire weekend you are surrounded by Disney.”
One Magical Weekend kicks off the weekend with the only party featuring a wave pool and lazy river, RipTide at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon June 2.
Disney is going through a lot of changes at the theme parks so RipTide at Typhoon Lagoon will be the only official event at any of the Disney parks, so make sure to make it out to the 52-acred waterpark which is expected to have more than 6,000 attendees.
One Magical Weekend continues the party June 3 at the House of Blues in Disney Springs for the main event party, a sequel to 2015’s Red party.
“Saturday night is called Red Vol. 2: #LoveWins. It’s going to be a celebration of dancing and community,” Christ says. “We loved the Red party at Epcot, but we think House of Blues is the perfect location for what we want for Red Vol. 2. It will give a more intimate setting and after the year we have all had I think that’s what we want to go for.”
One Magical Weekend’s Therapy Pool Parties return to the B Resort going all day June 2- 4, with the June 4 pool party being a bigger than ever pool party bash featuring DJ Manny Lehman.
One Magical Weekend will also be returning with the 21-and-up Cadabra After Hours parties at Old Town’s Sun of the Beach.
Girls In Wonderland
Pandora Events is back for the 17th year of Girls In Wonderland at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort June 1- 5. Girls In Wonderland believe in partying with a purpose and will donate a portion of proceeds to a Central Florida non-profit or charity. This year a portion of the proceeds will go to the GLBT Center of Central Florida.
The Girls In Wonderland kickoff the celebration with Traffic Jam party at Ember. Ladies, this is where you find a gal of the night, the weekend, or maybe for life. Colored bands will be handed out; red means she’s taken, yellow means approach with caution and green means go for it.
The Girls In Wonderland pool parties happen June 2- 4 at Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort pool and are all 21-and-up.
The party moves downtown June 3 at the Cheyenne Salon for Climax with guest DJ Pat Pat, top 40 and hip hop favorites and go-go dancers galore.
The weekend concludes with DJ Citizen Jane and the huge bash Indie Rock at the host hotel.
Parliament House kicks off their events with PI @ PH June 1, featuring the PH explosion dancers, a laser light show, a countdown to midnight and a sexy Latin Diva Revue Show.
Parliament House starts off the Adult Film Stars and Expo event in the courtyard June 2 which continues all weekend long. They will also have the foam parties June 3 and 4.
“Sunday is Parliament House’s biggest T-Dance of the year,” says Parliament House’s Tim Evanicki. “Everything kicks off at that afternoon with a Marco Marco fashion show, huge pool party and some of the best entertainers.”
Parliament House also continues their tradition of bringing some big names to Orlando’s Big Gay Weekend with the poolside concerts.
The concerts start June 2 with ‘80s pop star Debbie Gibson singing all her hits that she made popular across the stages and malls of America, and the world.
Macy Gray takes the stage June 3 with her turn of the millennium hit sound, blending pop, R&B and jazz, but she will not be on stage alone.
“Macy is bringing her full band with her and will perform with them on stage, which is a first for our Gay Days concerts,” Evanicki says.
Keri Hilson will bring her “Pretty Girl Rock” to the Parliament House for the June 4 concert.
For more information on all the events and parties, make sure to pick up a copy of Watermark’s GD2017 Guide to Orlando’s Big Gay Weekend.