On Sept. 7, gates open at 10:30 a.m., and the park, in Jackson, N.J., closes to outside guests from 8 p.m.-1 a.m. This marks the first time the LGBT event will be held on a Saturday.
Even co-creators Mark Nelson and Chris Wright were united by Six Flags to create an event for the LGBT community, which was dubbed Fairgrounds: Out at Night.
Nelson said he was inspired to help organize the event in part by trips he previously took to an unofficial LGBT event at Disney World.
“I was going to Orlando every year for basically an unofficial gay weekend at Disney. It was never private and we had people wear red-colored T-shirts for recognition, but it wasn’t all that put-together,” he said.
Around the same time, Wright reserved some of the picnic areas at Six Flags for an LGBT outing, and park leaders eventually reached out to him to create something more formal.
“I just went out on a limb and rented out a picnic area and over 1,000 people showed up, and then the following year Six Flags approached me,” he said. “They have events catered to everyone and they contacted Mark, who approached them with the same idea, and we came together.”
Nelson said Six Flags has been a constant support.
“Six Flags has had Muslim days and Jewish days and events like that where people can be who they are. They were all for it,” he said. “It is one of those nights where people can be who they are and not worry about people calling them names or being bullied.”
About 2,000 people attended the 2004 event, but Nelson and Wright are expecting up to 12,000 this year, depending on the weather.
Since the event’s inception, the crowds have become more diversified, Nelson said.
“There are all different kinds of subgroups in the LGBT community and it is an event where everyone seems to get along. It doesn’t matter your age, race, size, etc.; everyone has a smile on their face,” he said. “You have a lot of different people there and it is a good way to meet people you wouldn’t have talked to otherwise and learn things.”
The event has traditionally been held on a Friday night, but this year will include a daytime portion, as well as a private evening event.
Nelson said the daytime addition was the next step in the event’s development and will be helpful in bringing in LGBT and ally families.
“It has evolved in such a good way,” he said. “People hear that it’s Gay Day and attend and always have fun.”
With the daytime component, guests will now have access to Wild Safari and a number of other activities.
At night, partygoers can take in music by DJs Hector Fonseca, Steve Sidewalk and Eddie Baez, with a special performance by pop singer Bex, at 8 p.m.
Ticket purchases will benefit The Task Force Action Fund, The Gay and Lesbian Center of New York, The Imperial Court of New York and GIFTS, an LGBT group at Marble Collegiate.
Wright said the day is an occasion for the community to feel united while having a fun time out with friends.
“It is a time where we can be ourselves. You can be yourself, not worry about a thing, there are no lines to wait in — you can dance and drink and it is just a great night,” he said.
Advanced individual tickets are $48, $40 for children under 54 inches and $40 each for groups of 10 or more. Individual adult tickets are $70 at the gate.
Tickets can be purchased at Giovanni’s Room, 345 S. 12th St., or online at http://gaysixflags.com/tickets.