KKK Plans to Protest 'Gay Day' at Dollywood
May 19, 2004
A group of Ku Klux Klan members say they plan to stage a protest outside the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., on Saturday, when a group of gay men and lesbians are expected for a second annual ''Gay Day" event.
About 20 KKK protesters will demonstrate against the group's attendance outside the park, Klansman Randy Gray told The Tennessean.
Gray said his group organized the protest because Gay Day is ''totally opposite of what theme parks are for.''
''Theme parks have always been for families. They're going there, I believe, to rub it in our faces, to be like 'ha, ha, we're finally getting our way,'" he said.
Gray, a known Klansman in the area according to area police, said he learned of the event on the Web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate-group monitoring organization.
Dollywood officials have contacted police, who said they will increase patrols around the park on Saturday.
Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said, ''Dollywood is a private company, and it's private property. A group that is not part of the Dollywood company is not allowed to demonstrate or distribute any literature on Dollywood property.''
Gray said his group will find a place close to but not on park grounds.
Last year the Gay Day event drew about 1,300 people but no protests, said Ryan Salyer, executive director of the Knoxville-based gay, lesbian and transgender group Tri-Cities Pride, which organized the event.
This year, Salyer said he expects around 5,000 attendees from as far away as New York and Philadelphia who plan to attend the gathering.
The outing made headlines earlier month when the organizing group ran into a trademark controversy when Dollywood lawyers asked the group to stop advertising the event as ''Gay Day at Dollywood.''
The event's Web site had previously advertised the "Gay Day at Dollywood" event featuring the Dollywood butterfly logo and a cartoon likeness of Dolly Parton.
Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said the park was not trying to stop anyone from attending. The request, he said, was a standard one sent out to anyone in regard to trademark violations.
Since contacted by the theme park, the Web site removed the park's logo and changed the name of the event to "Gay Day 2004."
For Saturday's event, Salyer has asked attendees to wear red shirts to identify the group in hopes "flooding the park with a sea of red shirts."