Gay Days, the popular brand known for its annual festivities in Orlando, is making a pioneering move out to the desert Southwest.
Gay Days Arizona, May 8-12, offers gay men and women a chance to see sunny Arizona in posh accommodations in an inclusive environment. The Arizona Grand Resort and Spa, inside Stone Mountain Park and Preserve, is the host site for five full days of activities for all tastes.
“There’s a lot happening out here,” said Ian Joseph, event planner, who expects 10,000 attendees for this initial entry of the Gay Days brand into Arizona.
Events are still being added, Joseph said, with entertainment selections to be determined. For now, Gay Days Arizona is proud to announce Bud Light has come aboard as presenting sponsor with energy drink website DitchtheCan.com a platinum sponsor.
“We’re excited,” Joseph said. “We just added a women’s white ‘bleach out’ party and are expecting more great activities to come.”
Arizona, a maverick state of sorts, produced one of the conservative movement’s greatest heroes in U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater. It is known for its dry air, dangerous border with Mexico and, of course, the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The Arizona Grand Resort and Spa is located just six miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in the state capital and Arizona’s largest city. In addition to the customary pool parties and spinning DJs, Joseph’s company has a wide array of parties and activities planned from a 36-hole golf tournament to a Mad Hatter style Mother’s Day brunch.
The resort boasts a seven acre water park, a great place to cool off as temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees even in late spring. Joseph admitted there were “some risks” involved in launching this event in a traditionally conservative climate, but noted Phoenix is a rising destination for gay travelers.
“There is a strong local gay community here,” Joseph said.
Glenn Gullickson is part of that strong community. Managing editor at Echo Magazine, an LGBT publication covering Arizona for more than 25 years, Gullickson said there are ‘mucho’ things to do for gay travelers visiting Arizona.
“Phoenix is very welcoming,” Gullickson said. “There are a lot of gay bars in central Phoenix and downtown has an active arts and cultural scene.”
For day trippers or those looking to break away from Phoenix for a few days, Sedona and Jerome rank high on Gullickson’s list of hot spots.
“I am very fond of Sedona and the Red Rock country,” he said. “It’s very mystical there and Jerome has quite a following as well. It’s an old ghost town, built on the side of a mountain that has been taken over by artists.”
Politically, Arizona leans right and has been slow to embrace LGBT rights and protections despite Goldwater’s legacy of “live and let live.” The state senate recently passed a bill that Gullickson said will allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religion.
The bill, SB 1062, passed the senate on a party-line vote with 17 Republicans voting in favor and 13 Democrats voting no. The bill, however, generated a massive amount of negative press with companies such as Apple and Verizon even urging Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the bill. In the end Brewer buckled under the pressure and vetoed the bill.
Gullickson had worried that if she had not vetoed the bill it could have resulted in a “gay boycott” of Arizona.
This recent flap is somewhat surprising given Arizona’s tolerance for gay Republicans. Jim Kolbe served from 1985 to 2007 in the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the second openly gay Republican congressman ever when he revealed his sexual orientation in 1996. Likewise, Paul Babeu won re-election in 2012 as sheriff of Pinal County after voters found out he is a gay man.
For Joseph, however, Gay Days Arizona is all about putting politics aside and relaxing in a luxurious environment. The Arizona Grand Resort and Spa, a former Hilton property, and the state’s only AAA Four Diamond and M&C Gold Key Award winning, all-suite resort is the perfect setting.
Gay Days Orlando began in 1991 as a single designated day where participants were encouraged to wear red clothing in a show of pride. The brand has grown to be a major production, eagerly anticipated in Orlando and, more recently Las Vegas, where more than 30,000 people attended the 2012 event.
Arizona is new ground and Gay Days organizers are hoping to strike gold with several different levels of passes and access.
This isn’t the first time Gay Days has headed west. In 2012 they launched Gays Days Las Vegas. This year’s Vegas event will be held Sept. 2-8, while Gays Days’ signature event will be held in Orlando June 3-9.
Visit GayDaysAZ.com for more information.