At Dîner en Blanc (DEB) this year, October 20, it felt like two minutes couldn’t pass without someone stopping to take photos or ask about what a sea of people were doing dressed in white. If it seems like the event is a spectacle, that’s because it was designed to be.
Two-thousand guests dressed from head to toe in white, with attendees visiting from as far away as Biloxi, MS. Each year, guests pack food, tables, and chairs and then head on a bus to take them to a secret location. This year DEB was particularly special because it was held on the Mississippi riverfront by the Natchez in the French Quarter.
Dîner En Blanc originated in France with two friends in the military. They had not seen each other in 20 years and wanted to meet up to have a picnic. Since the two forgot what each other looked like, they decided to wear all white to be able to identify each other. This event happens all around the world and since New Orleans is the most French-oriented city in the United States, the organizers try to make it extra special.
“Dîner en Blanc is something that’s popular and something that people look for. It’s a statement that we have one in New Orleans,” Dîner En Blanc New Orleans director Cleveland Spears said. “We are also the third city in the US to have one so it does have a kind of international significance.”
Spears said that they usually have around 4,000 guests, but this year they made it a bit smaller to provide a higher quality experience for guests. According to their website, the 2020 event is already sold out and there’s a waiting list.
Many participants agreed that this year was a lot better than last year. Javis Jones, an attendee all the way from Baton Rouge who came along with his wife said that DEB was much nicer compared to last year’s event, which he says was a “waste of his time.”
Many of the people who attended Diner En Blanc last year were displeased with the location. Malene Henville, an attendant of 2018’s DEB, said that there were problems with the bathrooms. Diner En Blanc was held by the entrance of the New Orleans Museum of Art and the bathrooms were located near the front and the lines were extremely long. Other attendees this year said they felt that last year was disorganized, that the grounds were fairly muddy, and that tables were spaced too far apart.
The DEB staff always tries to pick exciting spots that are picturesque and fit the number of people that attend. They try to pick locations that guests can’t normally have dinner in, and it takes around 12 months to completely plan out everything.
And this year, they hit the mark.
Sybil Reed, a New Orleans native who has come out to Dîner en Blanc almost every year faithfully comes back to see the people of New Orleans come together in their white clothes. Another native, Angela Jefferson, who has attended three years in a row says that she really enjoyed this year because it was her first time being there from the very beginning. “I don’t like to say that I didn’t have a good time last year and give up. I like to give people second chances and contribute to cultural things in New Orleans,” Jefferson said.
Also, in their side operations, DEB donates to several organizations including Son of a Saint, Liberty’s Kitchen, scholarship funds, charter schools, and many more.
Even with a small handful errors that have happened at previous Dîners En Blanc, they still have many devoted supporters enjoy coming out. Just ask everyone who already nabbed their tickets for 2020.