Busch Garden’s is set to be a sea of red again this year as Gay Days returns to the Williamsburg theme park Jun 14-16th. This year, a 3rd party group, Theme Park Gay Days, has taken the reigns of putting the event together to not only ensure everyone has a blast while celebrating their sexuality, but also raising funds for important Virginia causes.
“It’s about getting it out there that LGBT people are normal, everyday people. But it isn’t just for LGBT people, it’s for supporters and allies as well, to help get our message of equality out there,” said Joe DeVito, Founder of Theme Park Gay Days. DeVito has a life-long love of theme parks and roller coasters, and when he moved to Norfolk 3 years ago, he fell head over heals for Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
“It’s clean, it’s a great place to go. Busch Gardens keeps itself well,” said DeVito. He had attended past Gay Days events, but he’d noticed they lacked organization and purpose. “It wasn’t gaining awareness, it wasn’t benefiting a charity, it wasn’t benefiting LGBT people as a whole, it was just a flash mob at the park basically.”
The idea of a “gay day” at a theme park has been around for some time. Disney World, in Orlando, FL., celebrated one of the first gay days back in 1991. About 3000 members of the LGBT community came out, and similar events have been held ever since. “There’s definitely a need and a market for this,” said DeVito. Realizing these events can be used to help spread awareness about LGBT issues, Theme Park Gay Days, a non-profit operation, sends the money it raises to deserving groups around the state like Equality Virginia and AIDS Access.
Busch Gardens has actually gone above and beyond to assist Gay Days since DeVito took over, something many might think as surprise considering Virginia’s conservative atmosphere. “People assumed bible thumping Virginians wouldn’t be interested… but Busch Gardens have been nothing but accommodating,” said Devito.
The park doesn’t normally allow people to come into the park in costume, but the drag queens for the picnic are given the royal treatment with access to the park’s dressing rooms. DiVeto called the in-park picnic the weekend’s main event and one that really excited the crowd.
The 3-day event starts Friday night with a pool party at the Double Tree hotel near Busch Gardens with drinks flowing. Saturday, wear your red shirt and head into the park for a day of rides and relaxation (and roasted turkey legs), but save some space for the drag show picnic at 12:30. That night, Williamsburg AMF Lanes have been rented out, giving you the chance to bowl your heart out, have a few drinks at the bar, and dance while DC’s DJ Matt Bailer spins till closing time. Sunday morning, the event comes to a close with a classic drag brunch with a preset menu back in the hotel.
Last years event drew about 700 people, and relied entirely on social media and word of mouth to get people out. This year, DeVito hopes to smash last years attendance, reaching out to LGBT people from up and down the east coast. “It’s an awesome and fun place to meet other like-minded LGBT people from all over, not just Hampton Roads and South Side-gays.”
So mark your calendars – June 14-16th, but get your tickets fast HERE. There are several tiers of tickets, and they are cheaper if you already have a season pass. Also, passes DO NOT include hotel stays, but there are still rooms available at the Williamsburg Double Tree.
We’ve also got 2 pairs of tickets to give away, fill out the widget below (You can enter as many times as you’d like) and we’ll announce the winners Friday May 31st. Tickets aren’t sold 2 weeks before the event, so get them fast!