Flash mob of picnic revelers dressed in white converge for D.C.’s fifth Dîner en Blanc

Attendees line up outside Nationals Park waiting to set up their picnic tables. Photo courtesy of Kate Michael.

By: Kate Michael

Five thousand people, all wearing white and carrying picnic baskets and table decorations, descended on Nationals Park this weekend. For many spending a leisurely Saturday in the area, it was a confusing sight. For those who know about Dîner en Blanc, it was a sight to behold.  

For the fifth year in a row, DC has hosted its own Dîner en Blanc, the original flash mob, which began in Paris 30 years ago. It’s been called the “world’s largest pop-up picnic,” and indeed, DC’s annual outdoor dinner event grows every year… in attendance and in legend.

The concept of Dîner en Blanc certainly draws attention, but the sole purpose is to gather together to share a gourmet meal with good friends in one of the city’s most beautiful public spaces. Every year, tickets sell out in minutes, and 2018 was no exception.

Lucky attendees, convening in groups of several hundred, connected at meeting points across the city, guided by volunteer Table Leaders who assuage some of the anxiety surrounding the big event.

You see, the Dîner’s secret location is divulged only minutes before the event is set to start, so once diners know where they are going, they must quickly converge. Previous DC Dîners have taken place at the Navy Yard, Lincoln Memorial, and even Pennsylvania Avenue!

Furthermore, each pair of guests arrived with their own gourmet picnic and elegant accompaniments, including fine china and silverware, all white tableware, and white tables and chairs. They quickly set up for dinner, vying to outdo others around them with their culinary skills and decorating creativity.  

Elaborate table settings and gourmet food are just part of the evening’s visual feast. Photo courtesy of Kate Michael.

Dinner began with the traditional waving of the napkin and concluded with the lighting of (electric) sparklers as revelers made their way onto the baseline to dance to an alternating DJ and the Dupont Brass Band.

Throughout it all, ogling was the sport of the night. The entire evening was a visual feast of all-white. Between the fashion, costumes, accessories, food, elaborate table settings, and general joie de vivre — there was almost too much to see and savor.  

Guests showed off their creativity with elaborate decorations and costumes. Photo courtesy of Kate Michael.

But after all of the merriment, guests packed up all of their belongings and left into the night, attempting to leave behind no trace that the evening’s picnic ever took place, but taking with them remarkable memories… and artistic ideas for next year!