06.06.24 Publisher’s Desk

I’ve had this song playing in my head for the past two days, “Everything Must Change” by Terri White. Some might say her version is bit on the dramatic side, but when you have a powerhouse voice filled with soul it is pure gold to my ears.

I’ve lost count on how many times I have been to what we at Watermark refer to as gay days. This can get confusing so I will try to use as few words as possible to deliver a brief history. In 1991 a group of LGBTQ+ people got together to wear red shirts at the Magic Kingdom. The goal was simple: be visible and show everyone that queer people are a part of daily life, even in the most magical, family-friendly place on earth. It came to be known as Gay Day at Disney or Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom.

The event quickly grew. People from all over the world started flocking to Orlando to experience this incredible day. Event groups began to form, like GayDayS, who offered convention-like experiences. They would rent out a hotel and put on shows, an expo and pool parties. Watermark jumped in the mix by creating the Friday night party at Typhoon Lagoon called Beach Ball.

Many organizations have come and gone, leaving their footprint on the biggest gay weekend in Orlando. There were One Mighty Weekend and Mark Baker events. Girls in Wonderland has been a longtime staple of the weekend, as has One Magical Weekend, and both are still thriving with their hotels, pool parties and signature events. Kindred Pride has brought the newest set of events with The Pride Cup, adding LGBTQ+ sports to the celebration.

To the general public, this has become known as gay days because they take place during the days around Gay Day. This is often confused with GayDayS which is one element of what is commonly called gay days. As I say gay days I am referring to all the events by all the promoters: One Magical Weekend, GayDayS, Girls in Wonderland and The Pride Cup. When you see GayDayS, I am just referring to that promoter and their events at their hotel.

I can’t say for sure, but I am pretty positive I went to the first or second Gay Day at Disney. It was a tradition for my brothers and I to go to Disney after someone graduated from high school and it just so happened that day fell on the first Saturday of June. I wasn’t out to my siblings at the time, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the red shirts.

Initially it wasn’t a sea of red, but its message was being seen. By the time I started working at Watermark in 2002, the weekend was booming. Gay Day would close the park down before 11a.m. There were so many people in red shirts that it was all you saw in many of the line queues. I have this wonderful memory of being in line for Splash Mountain and it seemed the entire line was red shirts. The hour-long wait was a ride itself as the crowd sang Disney songs in unison.
I have always loved the Typhoon Lagoon event, now called Riptide and put on by One Magical Weekend. They do a great job with it and nighttime events at waterparks are hard to beat.

Another favorite of mine has always been the GayDayS host hotel expo and events. At one point, the expo spanned three ballrooms. They were packed. People would walk shoulder to shoulder, five deep in the walkways. Three pools were filled day and night and events like Taste of GayDayS and Miss GayDayS Pageant were must see events. However, everything must change. There was a year where GayDayS moved its celebration out of June shortly after COVID hit. GayDayS seems to not be the same since.

If you click through the photos of gay days at WatermarkOnline.com, you will see droves of people at One Magical Weekend events and Girls in Wonderland, but crowds at GayDayS and Gay Day at Disney are noticeably smaller.

I am sure there are multiple reasons for this, but I truly hope there is a solution. GayDayS and Gay Day at Disney are deeply rooted in Central Florida’s LGBTQ+ history. This community needs to be active in keeping this tradition alive.
I encourage everyone next year to return to Gay Day at Disney. The joy of talking to people from all over the world wearing red shirts on the first Saturday of June is an incredible experience that we cannot lose. I encourage you to see the talented shows at the GayDayS host hotel.

The thing about gay days, even though it has national and worldly appeal, is that it supports local LGBTQ+ businesses. It supports local LGBTQ+ entertainers. All of gay days needs to thrive so this community can thrive. We are stronger together.

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

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