Diner en Blanc party lands at the North Cove Marina

A couple readers gave me heads up on this — well, as much as you can when an event’s location is super top-secret — but lucky for me Jolene Howard is a member and sent the details and these pics. (Make sure you click on the one above to get the full effect.)

Le Diner en Blanc, an event started in 1988 in Paris and now has branches all over the world, landed in Battery Park City in the North Cove, attracting what I think was about 5500 guests, all in white, for a dinner al fresco. This is not a casual event: guests understand that this is a mass “chic picnic” and are expected to conduct themselves with the “greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette.”

The event happens once a year and the location super top secret: according to Jolene, there are meeting spots all over the city and each group is led to the event spot by following a leader who gets their instructions by text in the moment. Over the years, she’s gone to one on Governors Island, Wagner Park, Pier 26 when it was an open slab and Lincoln Center twice.

It’s $25 to be a member (the event itself is $125 for two) but there’s a cap and a rumored waiting list of 60,000 people. Participants bring EVERYTHING, she said — chairs, tables, place settings, food. You buy wine in advance. It’s leave no trace.

“There are A LOT of rules …so many rules!” Jolene said. “But it is a wild, inclusive, super fun event after you jump through all of the hoops.”

It was launched by François Pasquier in 1988 and it continues to assemble close to 10,000 guests there every year. In 2018 a record 17,000 guests from Paris and around the world gathered at the Esplanade des Invalides to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Of course I needed to know how these logistics work — like how do you carry a table to a park — and Jolene explained it this way: “Attendees are sent size specifications for tables (the event organizers’ intention is for all of the individual tables to appear as one long banquet table) and all tables AND chairs are required to be white. I have a picnic roll-up table and I MacGyver it to the regulation height by dropping the legs into PVC tubes! And since it’s a roll-up table, I stuff it in my granny cart. I cover my camping chairs with banquet seat covers at the event. These fold up and get bungee-corded to my cart too.

“Some very clever people pack everything in a huge white wheelie suitcase. You see a lot of wheeled coolers. Charming picnic baskets are abundant. I try to make everything portable by one person, but some people book a spot as a small group and divide the labor. There was an ENORMOUS lighted tree on top of the table next to us – the only way I can figure they got it there was it was one person’s exclusive assignment.”