A record 5,000 picnickers and francophiles—all elegantly dressed in white from head-to-toe—came together Tuesday night for New York's fifth annual Diner En Blanc at Tribeca's Hudson River Park. The dull concrete of Pier 26 was swiftly transformed into a dazzling dance floor, while flowers, paper lanterns, strings of lights, and other DIY decorations covered the rows upon rows of tables. While the early evening heat was almost unbearable, the breeze from the river and magnificent sunset views kept diners from feeling suffocated.
As with past years—both in New York and in the event's native Paris—guests were required to follow a set of strict rules, from their dress (all white, of course, and "tasteful") to their drinks (wine and champagne only!), though for most guests, these limitations inspire even greater creativity. Towering eiffel tower hats, light-up blazers, and floor length feathered headpieces are par for the course, and elaborate costumes are as essential to the event as its hidden location and signature color scheme.
Nadege Fleurimond, a caterer, and her event planner Fabien attended along with her two birds Sweetie and Pie, who made up the centerpiece of their table. "We're coming to Diner en Blanc, might as well bring them, they're part of the family," Nadege explained. "Lucky for us they are white!"
Many participants were celebrating special occasions, with several tables gathering for birthday dinners. And couple Claudia and Israel, second time Diner en Blanc-ers, felt that the romantic location was perfect for their fifth wedding anniversary.
"Year after year we travel to different places," Duong Lee and his wife, Thimy Pham, each wearing personally designed hats, told us. The Vietnamese pair were visiting from Montreal. "We are not tourists," Lee joked, insisting that they were in town only for the dinner. Including those in Canada, they have attended eight Diner En Blanc events, and have no plans to stop now.
One group, dressed in powdered wigs and sweeping white gowns, thought for a moment after we asked them how long it took them to plan and create the day's set up. "Well, we just picked our theme for next year." As for what that might be? "We can't tell you—it would ruin the surprise!"
After a few more hours of dancing and drinking, the evening ended with the dinner's traditional trumpet call, when guests cleaned up the last traces of their spontaneous Parisian picnic. Nobody seemed too upset that this year's spot was so close to last year's location in Battery Park City, but Diner En Blanc's NYC organizer Gilles Amsallem says anything is possible when the event happens again in 2016. "We are thinking of all around the city: even New Jersey,Brooklyn, Queens," Amsallem said. "The more spectacular, the more difficult, we will try anyway, and make it happen."