Gay Days expecting record attendance, economic boost

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Beginning on Tuesday, more than 150,000 people will be in Orlando for the annual Gay Days event.

Eyewitness News learned that event organizers are expecting record crowds, and hotels are already booked solid.

Gay Days started 20 years ago as a celebration of gay pride at Orlando's most famous theme park, but now it is an economic powerhouse that pumps significant money into local businesses.

The Parliament House Resort and Night Club has been planning for the event since November.

"We couldn't do it if we didn't start that early," said Drew Sizemore with the Parliament House Resort.

The hotel caters to gay clients and its 130 rooms are sold out and so are the 950 rooms at the Double Tree near SeaWorld, where most of the events are being held.

For the first time, Gay Days is expecting more than 160,000 people.

"We travel around the country promoting it throughout the year, so I think we are reaching more people through our face-to-face meetings as well as our online," said Chris Manley, president of Gay Days.

The event kicks off on Tuesday at the Macy's at Mall at Millenia. Officials are expecting the entire parking lot to be full because Macy's is going to be giving a 10 percent discount on everything from clothes to sunglasses.

Gay Days will also have an expo at the Double Tree, starting on Thursday and ending Sunday.

Local bars will also get a boost.

The Parliament House is bringing in 27 bar tenders this weekend, nearly double the number on a regular weekend night.

"We don't like people to wait in line, we want them to be able to come in and get a drink, have a good time (and) go see a show," said Sizemore.

For the first time, Gay Days is also holding a similar event this year in Las Vegas. However, because that event is in September, the planners do not believe it will take away from visitors in Orlando.