White Hot: This year’s Diner en Blanc promises surprises at every turn.
While New Orleanians enjoy much milder winters then our friends in the North, we get just as excited at the arrival of spring. In New Orleans, spring signals the official start of festival and outdoor-event season.
Mainstays such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, French Quarter Festival, Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo and Gretna Heritage Festival are all local favorites. But for the past two years, a relatively new event has captured the hearts and minds of locals — the international phenomenon of Diner en Blanc.
This chic picnic that started in Paris more than 25 years ago has spread across the globe, taking place on every continent in over 30 countries. Here in the United States, New Orleans was the fourth city to host the event. In 2013, the event launched in New Orleans with 900 picnic-goers dining under the Crescent City Connection bridge and enjoying views of the Mississippi River. In 2014, that number doubled to more than 1,800 participants who continued in this new dining tradition amidst the musical backdrop of jazz vocalist Robin Barnes. Following dinner, the celebration continued with Big Sam’s Funky Nation, along with special guest Tonya Boyd-Cannon, who is representing the Crescent City in the current season of The Voice.
So how does it work? If this is your first time hearing about Diner en Blanc, the first step is to sign up online at neworleans.dinerenblanc.info. If you see a waiting list-only option when you go to sign up, don’t worry. That simply means that registration has not yet opened; so do include your name and email on the waiting list. Once registration opens, previous year’s attendees will have the first option to sign up as part of the first phase of registration. These guests are then allowed to invite an additional guest, who can sign up in the second phase. Following Phase II, all guests who have expressed interest via the waiting list are allowed to sign up as part of the third and final phase.
The location of the dinner party is a heavily guarded secret, and that provides the first bit of magic and mystery that surrounds the event. Guests meet at points across the city and are transported to the secret location via private coach service. Once at the secret location, guest unpack their table, chairs, linens and flatware, and take part in creating the atmosphere for this event by creating elaborate table settings and displaying their culinary works of art.
The transformation from an empty public space into a sea of picnic-goers —all adorned in white — takes place in a matter of minutes and is truly a wonder to behold. The night’s magic continues to unfold until the last guest departs, capping a night of wonder and newfound memories.
Organizers expect 2,200 guests to participate in this year’s Diner en Blanc — currently scheduled for May 9 — taking place in what has been described as a very unique location in the heart of the city. We’ll see you there!