ORLANDO, Fla. — More than 150,000 gays and lesbians and their families descended on Walt Disney World and surrounding theme parks this weekend for the 22nd annual “Gay Days” events, an annual pilgrimage that contributes an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars to the Orlando-area economy.
Orlando Gay Travel.com estimates that the theme parks alone make more than $13 million this weekend.
In addition to the red T-shirt day at the Magic Kingdom, the “Gay Days,” which kicked off last Tuesday and concludes today, included expos, parties “and a lot of money being spent,” event officials said.
“We’ve heard that they estimate about $600 million put out by this event. All the bars, and restaurants and Orlando premium outlets have been with us for nine years, and they said they see about a 350 percent increase in sales,” Gay Days President Chris Alexander-Manley said.
Not everyone has welcomed “Gay Days” to Orlando with open arms.
Again this year, the Florida Family Association planned to protest the Disney event by renting two planes with banners to warn families and condemn the “public promotion of homosexuality.”
The planes were rented via Florida Family Association supporters who donated $12,800 for the fly overs.
In a statement, the Florida Family Association said: “We want to warn families before they expose their children to Gay Day’s same-sex revelry, before they pay money to Disney for parking, admission, novelties and food. We also want to send a message that Gay Day’s public promotion of homosexuality to a captured audience inside the park is wrong.”
Last year, the group spent $7,000 for the fly overs.
This fall, Las Vegas will host its first ever Gay Days festival.