May 28--The unofficial uniform may still be a simple red shirt, but the satellite events happening throughout Orlando get more colorful each year. We've come a long way since the initial Gay Day in 1991, when members of the Central Florida gay community picked a warm day in June to gather at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
From that fun-loving show of solidarity, Gay Days has grown to a weeklong bash (June 3-9 this year) that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the theme parks and beyond. The park jaunts are easy: Just gear up in red and visit one of the Disney parks during the designated days (June 5 for Animal Kingdom, June 6 at Hollywood Studios, June 7 for the Magic Kingdom and June 8 at Epcot).
And about that nightcap? Veterans of Gay Days know that when the parks close, the party is just heating up. Here's a few can't-miss events throughout the week:
Gay Days Kickoff Party
Where better to roll out the red carpet than the Parliament House Resort (410 N. Orange Blossom Trail), Orlando's oldest gay landmark? The opening party for Gay Days doubles as the kickoff to Orlando Black Pride week, and hip-hop queen Da Brat will ring in both with a midnight concert. The bash offers fashion shows and entertainment from 5-9 p.m.June 3, followed by pre- and post-concert festivities hosted by P-House diva Darcel Stevens from 8 p.m.-3 a.m. Tickets to the party are $15 advance, $20 at the door or $50 VIP (advance purchase only, includes open bar). Concert tickets are $10 at the door. Call the Parliament House at 407-425-7571 or check gaydays.com for details.
Miss Gay Days
Gay Days may be all about acceptance, but expect the claws to come out at the Miss Gay Days pageant. If 12 competing drag queens weren't enough of a recipe for drama, the "Disney Villains" theme should provide ample encouragement. "RuPaul's Drag Race" star Coco Montrese will host/referee the catwalk throwdown, scheduled for 7 p.m.June 4 at the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando (5780 Major Blvd.). Tickets are $20 advance, $27 at the door, available at gaydays.com.
Taste of Gay Days
Fuel up for a jampacked weekend at this foodie benefit for local gay charities featuring samples from local eateries. Participants include Copper Canyon Grill, Dave & Busters and Blue Martini, each offering their own signature meals and cocktails. Enjoy all this plus dancing and a silent auction from 6-10 p.m.June 5 at the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando. Tickets are $25 advance, $30 at the door, available at gaydays.com.
Gay Days has scored some solid music headliners in recent years, but not too many stars from the country music world. That trend turns around in a big way with the arrival of pop-country chanteuse LeAnn Rimes, who treats the Parliament House Resort to a midnight show on June 7. Stick around before and after the concert for a foam party and performances by the Footlight Players. Tickets are $30 general, $75 VIP. Call 407-425-7571 or check gaydays.com for availability.
Girls in Wonderland
It's ladies first at this annual dance party at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney (1490 E. Buena Vista Drive, Orlando) from 8 p.m.-2 a.m.June 7. DJs Whitney Day and Pat Pat will keep the crowd moving indoors, while live bands will offer more intimate tunes on the patio. You also can expect burlesque performances by a who's who of local club celebrities, including Blue Starr and Ivy Les Vixens. Tickets are $26 advance or $31 at the door, available at girlsinwonderland.com.
The hip-hop diva announced her pregnancy in February, but that won't stop her from closing out Gay Days with a midnight concert June 8 at the Parliament House Resort. Lil' Kim will be rapping for two at a party that also includes beats by DJs Brianna and Scott Robert at the pool and the indoor dance floor. Admission is $30 after 6 p.m., $10 before. Contact Parliament House at 407-425-7571 or parliamenthouse.com for details and tickets.
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