Why I Love Dinner in White


People ask me to describe/explain Dinner in White, and I don't know that that is achievable. It's kind of one of those things you need to be at to grok. But here are a few things about it, in no particular order.

The build-up, the planning, the waiting for the announcement of the site, and the getting there are all integral to the event. Pulling off the highway onto Plymouth Avenue (going to Boom Island) and seeing tons of people in white driving cars in the same direction last night made me giggle. I still remember our first dinner on the Stone Arch bridge, and feeling this incredible sense of belonging as we joined the throngs of people in white caring their dinners, tables, and decorations along the river and onto the bridge.

Here's our "waiting" picture:

Speaking of that first year, I can unequivocally say that a huge reason for our love of the event is the fact that our linked table that first year was with Michele and Chris. We shared a fantastic evening of great conversation, but more than that, they showed us the ropes; I commented to Patrick last night that it's like when I moved in to my neighborhood 30 years ago and the neighborhood pioneers took me under their wings and showed me how to behave and what to do. We've been next to them every year since, and I treasure the time.

Because of that, and because of our own aesthetic, we keep our approach very simple. A small table, minimal but tasteful decorations, food food; simple and elegant (and very French). There are others who bring larger groups and do big tables and elaborate decorations, and I'm glad that works for them; it's fun to see. But that will never be me. (here's our set-up).

Other people wander from table to table, checking out other people's set-ups, sharing food, meeting people. That's great. We prefer to stay in one place, and let people come to us. But again, the joy of the evening is that you do what works for you.

One reason we stay where we are is the founding principle of offering to others that Chris and Michele taught us. They have a free champagne station every year, where we make a point of stopping people as they walk by and telling them to fill their ("dangerously empty") cup with champagne. This year, we brought bottles to help keep the bubbles flowing.

Elements spring up to make the evening magical. Last night there were musicians, and hula-hoopers, and white rabbits, and a miniature horse, and a candlelit water taxi that floated by with a New Orleans band playing (I guess I should say "New-Orleans-style" — I doubt they came all the way up the Mississippi).

Normally, all the tables are linked. Last night, due to covid, we were separated in little bubbles, but there was a young couple from Rochester coming for their first Dinner near us, and after determining they were vaccinated, we invited them to link. They were lovely.

You are your own host. No one is in charge of the event. No one gets permits, or has approved vendors, or has a certain way to do it. Every group is different. You start the night with napkin swirls and end with sparklers. People come from all over, groups of friends of all persuasions, and at the end, we all vanish into the night.

Chris and Michele (Team Sunrise) are always the last table standing, and we felt honored to join them. It's not often that I stay out until 2am anymore. But even that felt way too short. I'm writing this now the next day, with coffee and a donut, and it seems both like a distant memory and like seconds ago. 

(photo credit Chris Engstrom)

I just know that Dinner in White fills my should with a mix of event and personality that I rarely get anywhere else, and that I treasure, especially after the last 18 months.


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