A HUGE thank you from the Co-Hosts of Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia

Kayli Moran and Natanya DiBona — Diner en Blanc Co-Hosts (Sean Corbett Photography)

A highly coordinated event such as Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia cannot be planned or orchestrated in a vacuum- it takes, as they say, a village.

Firstly, we wish to thank the 1,300 participants who came out in all their style, with grace and elegance, to share a meal with friends in a beautiful Philadelphia space.  For many of you it took just one look at the breathtaking pictures from events in Paris, New York and Montreal to prompt you to sign up.  For others, it was the encouragement of friends or a spouse.  However you arrived there, you placed your faith in the power of this amazing community experience and you packed your finest china, carried your tables and chairs, climbed stairs and rode subways.  You shared your gourmet meals with strangers, danced the night away and even dipped your toes in the fountain.  You captured your memories in photographs and told the stories of your experiences in some of the most entertaining and beautiful blogs we’ve ever read. For this we can’t thank you enough!

We also wish to thank the many, many people who played a role behind-the-scenes in making the first Dîner en Blanc in Philadelphia a tremendous success:

The City of Philadelphia and the Fairmount Park Commission:
The host- and guest of honor- at any Dîner en Blanc is public space.   Using the beautiful Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Circle simply would not have been possible without the permission and support of the City of Philadelphia and the Fairmount Park Commission.  Melanie Johnson, Margaret Hughes, Mark Focht, Barry Bessler, Joe Callan and Karen Walls all respected the secrecy of our event, walked us through the proper paperwork, provided tremendous support and advised us on everything needed to ensure a safe and successful event.  We are eternally grateful and look forward to working with you on many more Dîner en Blanc events in the future!

We would also like to take the opportunity to thank the city employees who helped us on site that day, including Antoine the amazing “fountain guy” (as we now fondly refer to him), Harry the electricity expert and the many individuals who dropped off extra trash cans at the start of the event and assisted us with their removal at the end.  We take great pride in an aerial picture we took of Logan Circle looking pristine and sparkling less than an hour after the conclusion of our event – the result of a true collaboration of all parties involved!

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia in Logan Square on August 23, 2012 — Georgi Anastasov Photography

Lastly, we need to thank Jacques Greber the French architect who redesigned the Parkway and Logan Circle in 1917 to resemble the Champs Elysees and the Place de la Concorde in Paris.  As one of our guests wrote after our event,“Thank you for a wonderful night in Philadelphia- that felt like Paris.”  Thank you also to Alexander Stirling Calder, whose fountain sculpture has been the centerpiece of Logan Circle since 1924, and the many Philadelphia organizations and initiatives (such as the Association for Public Art and With Art Philadelphia) that work tirelessly to bring greater awareness to the beauty of this space.  We took great pleasure in HughE Dillon’s Diner en Blanc post that said: “I think we have a new event space that is at the center of everything.”

Our Amazing Volunteers:
Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia is entirely run by local volunteers: 2 Co-Hosts, 6 Group Leaders, 25 Pedestrian Leaders and several on-site volunteers.  Thanks to early coverage of our event from Philly.Eater.com and MainLineDish.com we were fortunate to have over half of our amazingly talented, passionate and committed volunteers in place by May.

Our Group Leaders were Megan Haney, LeeAnne Mullins, Thomas Price, Neil Stein, Sydney Waldron and Julianne Walsh.  They met regularly with us throughout the summer and offered their time, expertise, advice and hard work without hesitation.  These six people did everything from blogging to building furniture to buying Septa tokens at the last minute. We couldn’t have been more pleased with how seamlessly this group worked together and supported the common goal of making the first Dîner en Blanc the best it could possibly be.

Everyone who participates in a Dîner en Blanc has first-hand experience with our Pedestrian Leaders.  These volunteers are the true ambassadors for Dîner en Blanc and have the most important role in the entire event.  Not only do they communicate with 25 tables for weeks- providing essential information and answering questions- but they have the awesome responsibility of making sure that all 50 participants are safely transported to the final, secret destination.   We can’t tell you how many of the guests have written to us to express their gratitude and we couldn’t agree with them more!     

Our amazing Pedestrian Leaders and on-site volunteers were:
Marie, Maria, Michael, Samantha, Karen, Vernita, Monika, Robby, Donna & Errett, Kathy, Stormy, Helen, Chris, Matt, Shawn, Sean, Aubree & Sandra, Sabina, Amber, Allison, Jason, Crystal, Kat, Dara, Lindsey, Pierre, Pat and Sharon.

Aversa PR
While many doubted that an event like Dîner en Blanc could be pulled off in Philadelphia, Kory Aversa enthusiastically embraced our event and jumped in with both feet.  Just two days into the job he was sending out our first press release and the frantic pace continued for the next 8 weeks.   Together we learned how to navigate this wonderful world of promoting Dîner en Blanc while keeping its location secret from those whose job it is to investigate the whole story.   There is no doubt that he had the hardest job facing the press with instructions on white attire and cryptic addresses, but we have a feeling that when all was said and done, many of them enjoyed the thrill of the mystery as well!  Kory and his wonderful staff remained calm and professional from start to finish!

Garces Catering
Garces Catering was the very first partner we had on board when we began planning Dîner en Blanc.  From the first conversation with catering sales manager, Beth Koenig, through to when the last picnic bag was handed out at the event, her calm demeanor never wavered.  She was the picture of grace under pressure and her wonderful staff effortlessly handed out close to 200 picnics on site in record time- we didn’t hear a single complaint!

We also thank Adam Delosso, the Chef de Cuisine, who embraced our concept from the beginning and set to work on creating the most elegant and gourmet meals that could easily be transported in a bag.  We are still hearing raves about the potted duck and those amazing macaroons.  We also thank Garces Catering for the generous donation of food to our media lounge – we had some very happy reporters!

Alain Blanchon:
Alain Blanchon of Alain Blanchon Selections, Ltd. was familiar with Dîner en Blanc and eagerly embraced the opportunity to be part of its debut in Philadelphia.  He generously donated and poured wines at both our Williams-Sonoma preview party and in the media area of the event.  Along the way he graciously answered Picnic Banter questions and offered recommendations for his top five picnic wine choices all the while showing his warmth and charm.

Mole Street Productions, Hot Club Philly & DJ Bruce:
We can’t thank Brendan Walsh and Brian LaPann of Mole Street Productions enough for their instant understanding of what our event should sound like.  It took just a brief phone call for them to come back to us with the suggestions of Hot Club Philly and DJ Bruce and we never looked back.  They embraced us as partners and endured our secrecy- even when it meant scrambling for additional sound equipment in just over 24 hours- and were true professionals. And, of course, a huge thanks to Andre, the amazing sound guy who arrived just in time to save the day.

Thank you to Barry Wahrhaftig, Phyllis Chapell and all the members of Hot Club Philly.  Look at any picture of them that night and you can practically hear the Parisian music!  They provided the perfect backdrop for an elegant and relaxing meal with friends.

DJ Bruce, thank you for fully understanding our event and playing such a wide variety of music that everyone got out of their seats.  A sampling of just a few pictures from that night tells this story, but one of our favorite quotes from the night was someone who remarked that his normally very reserved friend came running up to tell him “I led a conga line!”  Music has the power to reach all ages, races and backgrounds and nothing was truer that night.

Romance was a theme of the evening at Diner en Blanc — Georgi Anastasov Photography

Our Sponsors:
Elegance, style and grace are always on display at a Dîner en Blanc in any city you attend.  To add a fun element to the event for all participants, we offered prizes for Most Elegant Man, Most Elegant Woman and Most Elegant Table.  Our search for prizes easily led us to the following sponsors:

The Four Seasons Hotel: 
Synonymous with luxury, Four Seasons Philadelphia happily responded to our request for a prize with hardly a question asked!  Little did they know that the party we were planning for months would be right outside their doorstep or that we would secretly reserve one of their most beautiful rooms to capture the magical aerial shots of the event from its balcony.  We simply cannot rave more about our experience at the hotel that night and the next morning- exemplary service, kindness and the utmost attention to all of our needs.

We know the winner for Most Elegant Woman, Susan Gish, will be treated equally well upon her stay!

Le Bec Fin:
As we planned to bring the elegant Parisian tradition of Dîner en Blanc to Philadelphia, we couldn’t help but think of how Georges Perrier introduced the fine French dining tradition to Philadelphians over 40 years ago through his restaurant, Le Bec Fin.  While Perrier is no longer at the helm, its new owner, Nicolas Fanucci, is introducing a whole new generation to this Philadelphia institution and happily offered a dinner for two as a prize for Most Elegant Man.  He and Shannon Corin, Private Events Coordinator, enthusiastically participated in the event and selected Lieutenant Moran as their winner…we can’t wait to hear about his fabulous meal!

Margot & Camille Optique:
Valerie Vittu, owner of  Margot & Camille Optique in Old City, generously provided sunglasses for the runner-up winners of the Most Elegant dressed contest: Marnie Sue and David Arrell.  She also took on the very difficult task of judge for Most Elegant woman!  We thank her for her time and enthusiasm!!

Williams-Sonoma:
Chuck Williams opened his first store in Sonoma, California in 1956 with the commitment to sharing the beauty and utility of French tools and cookware with the American cook.  Fifty-six years later, Williams-Sonoma is a premiere specialty cookware store across the country and the perfect sponsor of our Most Elegant Table contest.  Williams-Sonoma, Inc. embraced Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia and generously awarded a $500.00 gift card, but it was the staff of the Williams-Sonoma at the Bellevue on Walnut Street who became our partner in the truest sense of the word.  General Store Manager, Jeff Acker, and Assistant Store Manager, Brenda Oliver Morgan, went above and beyond to support our efforts to promote Dîner en Blanc.  We hosted two preview parties for attendees at their store and they offered discounts and transformed their tables into works of art to showcase white table cloths, napkins and plates, picnic baskets and glassware.

At the event, Brenda arranged flowers and worked her table design magic on the food table in the media area (it looked simply flawless!) while  Jeff scoured the crowd of 650 tables to deem Christine Schadow Fritsky and Michael Fritsky’s table the Most Elegant!   Thank you so much for your treating our event like it was your event, too.

Preview Party Participants:
Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia hosted two preview parties this summer at Williams-Sonoma.  We thank the following vendors for generously participating:

  • Garces Catering
  • Chef Kathy Gold of In the Kitchen Cooking School
  • Touché Accessories
  • Jar Bar
  • Ms. Goody Cupcake
  • Alain Blanchon Selections, Ltd.

Our Picnic Basket Banter Participants and Dîner en Blanc Models:
Given that Dîner en Blanc was a new concept for Philadelphia, we embarked on a strong marketing campaign designed to raise awareness of the many public spaces in Philadelphia as well as introduce the many different people who were attending the event or involved in its planning.  We thank the following people who generously gave of their time to enthusiastically participate in our photo shoots and answer our many Picnic Basket Banter questions:

Jack Latta, Julianne Walsh, Alicia Cohen, Solomon Evans, Bryan Milane, Jess Mellen, Stormy Lundy, Kathy Gold, Jose Garces, Seun Olubodun, Art Etchells, Michelle Cassidy, Alain Blanchon, Ryan and Eric Berley, Daniele Thomas Easton, Brendan Walsh, Brian LaPann, Alicia Nathanson, Katherine Fraser, Anna Coyne, and Brian Cawley.

A special thank you to Mary Dougherty and Jillian Dunn of Nicole Miller Philadelphia for generously lending us two gowns for our final profile, The Art of Public Space.

We extend a very, very special thank you to our amazing photographer, Sean Corbett, who made all of these wonderful images possible.  He worked tirelessly at each of these shoots and worked overtime to edit the many pictures for us.

All of the profiles can be read in their entirety on our blog: dinerenblancphiladelphia.wordpress.com.  A special thank you to LeeAnne Mullins and Megan Haney for the great time and care they spent editing and formatting these profiles…we promise to all be savvy wordpress users by next year!

Many more very important thank you’s:

  • Sandy Safi at Dîner en Blanc International who consulted with us for months and months on how exactly to plan a Dîner en Blanc in Philadelphia that would respect the values and traditions of the event while reflecting the character and personality of our city.  Charles Safi, we would have been nothing without your website and registration support- thank you for your enduring patience with us!
  • Lori Klein Brennan of University City District and Danielle Cohn of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau for their early support of Dîner en Blanc and their understanding of what a great event it could be for the City of Philadelphia.  They opened their contact lists to us and made connections for us that we simply couldn’t have made on our own.
  • Daniele Thomas Easton- what a gift we were given when Aymeric put us in touch with you!  There really are no words to sum up our gratitude for all you did for us in every way, but please know that we are in total awe of the wonderful person you are!
  • Pierre Rives- for your enthusiasm, passion and the record number of people you were able to register in 72 hours!
  • Our official videographer, Alicia Nathanson, of Blossom Productions and her amazing team for jumping in and capturing the whole story of our event…without any direction from us!
  • Our official event photographer, Georgi Anastasov, whose pictures include one so romantic that we think it needs to be submitted to the tourism bureau for the next “With Love, Philadelphia” poster campaign.  We can’t wait to see the rest of the pictures!
  • Sean Corbett for “unofficially” photographing the entire event from start to finish- thank you, thank you!
  • Lori Schweitzer at Potty Queen- We’ve never heard so many people comment about the portable bathrooms at an outdoor event.  Every single person remarked it was the cleanest, most elegant experience- your company couldn’t be more aptly named!
  • Mitch, Jake, Nick and the rest of the team at Prodigal Security for providing a safe environment for our guests while allowing them to have fun.
  • The Racquet Club of Philadelphia for generously allowing us to meet in their space and store “just a few white tables”.
  • The fine workers at Septa who transported hundreds of Dîner en Blanc guests with smiles on their faces (we’ve seen many, many subway pictures that prove this!).
  • Mike Browne from Next Century Printing for all of his assistance printing and mounting Dîner en Blanc promotional pictures.  We look forward to next year when we get to print the beautiful pictures from our own event!
  • Dino’s Party Rentals & Westmont Party Supply for fulfilling our request for 500 customized balloons in spite of the national helium shortage.
  • Arway for offering a great linen package for our guests and providing tablecloths for the media lounge.
  • Special thanks to Vincent Vienne and Stephen Menei at the Sofitel Hotel and the Liberte Bar for opening your doors to several hundred guests for the after party. We loved the customized drink menu that you created especially for Dîner en Blanc!
  • A very special thank you to all of the members of the press and the many, many bloggers who covered our event from start to finish.  We know how fortunate we were and that we can’t begin to thank you all by name, but a few highlights include:
    • HughE Dillon who first covered our event at Night Market in June on Philly Chit Chat and enthusiastically attended the entire evening.  We have quoted your Philly Post Blog multiple times since our event- thank you, thank you!
    • Foobooz- Within a few hours after your post about our event, every third person at Night Market seemed to know about it!  A special thank you again to founder, Art Etchells, for his participation in our Picnic Basket Banter profile.
    • Nydia Han from 6ABC was one of our earliest supporters and we can’t thank her enough for spreading the word about our event to her colleagues.  Our spot on FYI Philly yielded 700 sign-ups to our waitlist and their team, including Wendy Daughenbaugh and Marilyn Phister, was a dream to work with.
    • Michael Klein, thank you so much for your thorough coverage in the Food Section of the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Insider blog…such an honor!  We are already looking forward to having you as a guest at next year’s event!
    • Monica Rogozinski and the team from WHYY’s Friday Arts for their patience and understanding and for embracing this as an event that truly had artistic and cultural merit in Philadelphia.
    • Allison Stad, and the team from Uwishunu, whose first post about our event yielded 600 registrants to our waiting list in one day!
    • Hadas Kuznits, from KYW’s What’s Cooking and Dyana Williams from WRNB, who not only had us on their shows, but enthusiastically participated in Diner en Blanc…it was such a joy to see you both there!
    • Lari Robling, who also participated and wrote about her experience for newsworks.org- we definitely didn’t think you looked like a marshmallow and wish we had the opportunity to sample that peach soup and  avocado terrine that was being served at your table.
    • Uwishunu, Frugal Philly Mom, Philly Loves Fun and 6ABC, for hosting our official contests after the event was sold out.
    • As we mentioned previously Philly.Eater.com and MainLineDish.com, thank you for your coverage of our event in April..we have many of our amazing volunteers as a result!
    • Other thank you’s include: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, WHYY, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metro,  Philly Loves Fun, Philadelphia Style Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, Mommy Entourage, Le Fabueleux, Zagat, G-Philly, Yelp, Frugal Philly Mom, One Curly Fry in a Box of Regulars, Philly Homegrown and Visit Philly, Where Magazine,  22ndand Philly, Grub Street, Philly PR Girl, Under Design, City Space, Bicycle Chef, Tax Free Philly, Philadelphia Life and Suburban Life, France Amerique, 215 Magazine, Culture Jaunt, Glamorosi, A. D. Amorosi, Chow Hound, Josh Can’t Cook, Examiner Sandee Miller, Susan Scovill, Phila Culturati, Fun Things to Do with Your Kids in Delaware County, Food Rulez, Suburban Gentleman and many, many more.

Finally, one last and very important thank you to Francois Pasquier for conceiving of the idea for Diner en Blanc in Paris in 1988 and to his son Aymeric Pasquier for believing it needed to be shared with the world.  On behalf of the thousands and thousands of individuals who participated just this year alone, we thank you.

Natanya DiBona & Kayli Moran

Hosts, Dîner en Blanc – Philadelphia 2012

3 thoughts on “A HUGE thank you from the Co-Hosts of Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia

  1. Pingback: Diner En Blanc: From Philadelphia’s Biggest Secret to Best Party of the Year « Philly Loves Fun

  2. Pingback: Diner en Blanc Preview Party «

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