In the sixth iteration of the New York City Diner en Blanc, almost 4800 guests converged onto Robert F. Wagner Park, just north of The Battery. From the main party area between Pier A and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the pop-up white dinner extends into the gardens, grasses and waterfront walkways of Robert F. Wagner Park, named after Democratic senator who originally hailed from Germany. The views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty on this clear day were simply stunning and possibly for the first time in the history of the dinner in New York City, the weather was comfortably cool.
The Diner en Blanc hails from Paris, where it will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2018. There, the dinner began as a small affair between friends by François Pasquier, who returned abroad and wanted to have a dinner with his friends. To find each other in the Bois du Boulogne, everyone wore white. Each year, the invitees were allowed to invite friends and the dinner is now a 10,000+ person affair. To this day, it remains an invite only dinner and the location is truly a surprise, even to city officials and the police.
America Pasquier, François’ son, and Sandi Safi expanded the Dîner en Blanc to Montreal, and founded the Diner en Blanc International which has brought the dinner to over 100 cities across four continents, mostly by means of a franchise model. New York City is the only city still managed and produced directly by Diner en Blanc International and is clearly the most high profile of the cities.
The John J. Harvey fireboat paid a visit
Unlike Paris, anybody can sign up to get the chance to attend the dinner in New York City and other cities but priority is given to prior guests and invitees of prior guests and leaders, keeping in line with the original concept of a dinner spread between friends. In New York City this year, the waiting list was 45,000 strong.
All guests are assigned a table leader and group leader, and meet at pre-determined locations all around New York City. The leaders bring groups sized between 200 and 250 people to the secret location each year, timed to arrive and enter the site in waves. The groups are assigned very specific areas to set up at. Tonight, dinner began after a napkin waving ceremony (très French), the drinking and eating commenced.
The John J. Harvey fireboat paid the dinner a visit, as did a sailboat from Möet Chandon, the champagne sponsor.
Here in New York City, the location cannot be truly flash mob style due to liquor and gathering rules so the location is rented in advance, which accounts for the registration costs each year. Catering also must be on site, which means unlike Paris, people cannot bring their own alcohol. They can bring their own food and decorations however, and this is where New Yorkers really shine – the elaborate displays and costumes create quite the scene.
Halfway through, a party breaks out with scheduled performers and DJs, and an official afterparty takes place nearby.
Next, check out the history of the Dîner en Blanc locations in Paris, the past locations in NYC, and see the documentary about the Diner en Blanc in Paris featuring Untapped Cities founder Michelle Young. All photos of 2016 Dîner en Blanc by @ericlau_street and @untappedmich