It has been some time since Washington has seen a heavily coordinated, non-political event at the base of the U.S. Capitol, and the revelers were ready for it — though to be fair, they didn’t exactly know that’s where they were headed.
Saturday marked the return of DC’s annual Dîner en Blanc, a popular all-white pop-up picnic that has its origins in France, but has now expanded to 80 cities in 30 countries on six continents.
For its seventh edition in DC, Dîner en Blanc again welcomed guests to don white attire from head to toe for a magical evening of dining and entertainment at an iconic DC location. Participants — from a waitlist of thousands — met up in small groups around the city eagerly awaiting the location of the flash mob dinner party to be revealed. They then raced to set up their elaborate tables and arrange their meals (all carried with them) before the iconic ceremonial start of the night… the napkin wave.
While the event has previously been held at Yards Park, Nationals Park, Mount Vernon Square, Freedom Plaza, and yes, even on Pennsylvania Ave between 3rd and 6th Streets NW, the repeat location didn’t seem to bother many. The Capitol as backdrop to a moment of festivity and fun was, instead, a way to counter negative recent events. And DC Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio was there to ceremonially commence the dinner and announce that DC is Open! (“DC is Open” is the city’s current tagline for safely increasing tourism.)
Guests that didn’t bring their own gourmet meals from home were able to feast on picnic fare packaged and purchased from the nearby Art & Soul and other catered offerings delivering onsite.
The evening was marked with spectacles for participants to enjoy during and after their meal, like roaming performers, photo opportunities, interactive art, and musical entertainment. Dupont Brass took the stage in the daylight with DJ Honey spinning into the night.
Other Dîner en Blanc traditions included the lighting of sparklers to conclude the meal and ignite the dance floor.
The dinner took place in the street, leaving the sidewalks of the often-busy thoroughfare of Pennsylvania Ave. so close to Capitol Hill open to pedestrians and spectators. Among the perks of the party are the experience, the pictures, and the pleasure of seeing observers walk by and wonder — what’s happening?! — and how they can be a part of it.
While Dîner en Blanc is an invitation-only event due to space limitations, it is inclusive, allowing for new participants when waitlist space becomes available. The 2021 event scaled down slightly for distancing measures, but still boasted a sell-out 4,300 picnicking guests.
At the end of the evening, those in attendance packed up all of their belongings, picked up all of their litter, and dispersed into the night, leaving behind no sign of their elegant revelry. Many continued their white night of wonder at the YOTEL Hotel, the location of the official afterparty. Others may not see each other again until next year… at another secret location where semi-strangers will convene to share a meal and more DC memories.