Despite protests by conservative Christian groups and 700 Club televangelist Pat Robertson, Gay Days continues to attract tens of thousands of people to Disneyland and Disney World each year. The annual unofficial gatherings raise little eyebrows and provide a mutually beneficial partnership for the theme parks and their sponsors.
The loosely organized event, which started at Walt Disney World in 1991 and moved to Disneyland seven years later, has become a major tourist attraction in Orlando and Anaheim. Attendees meet at a variety of locations during regular park hours for parties and socializing. They also hold a series of events, including Drag Bingo and expos, in hotels, restaurants, pool parties and other venues.
In a tradition that goes back to the first after-hours gay parties, participants wear red T-shirts. It’s a way to identify one another. Some people purchase official Gay Days shirts, while others wear tees with the colors of their favorite ride or character.
The crowds can be dense, especially in the Magic Kingdom. A sea of red shirts can form in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Other group pictures can be found in the parks, and many attendees post them to social media.
Unlike other themed events, such as Halloween parties or Star Wars weekends, Gay Days is free to attend. However, the event’s dozens of sponsoring hotel and restaurant chains put out rainbow merchandise and add specialty food items to their menus. In addition to the theme parks, attendees can find special photo-ops and a Beach Ball waterpark party at Aquatica Orlando, which is an event sponsor.