A few notes of thanks…
The Quest for the Location, the City of Philadelphia and Avenue of the Arts, Inc
The end of our third Dîner en Blanc “season” has passed and a very, very long list of thank you’s is once again in order.
First and foremost, we have to thank the City of Philadelphia for embracing Dîner en Blanc. Not only for allowing such an amazing event to take place on the Avenue of the Arts, but for working with us over a period of four months to ensure that it was executed safely and with all of the necessary and proper supports. Specifically, we must thank: Margaret Hughes, Bob Allen and the Managing Director’s Office Special Events.
The plan for this year’s location was grand and ambitious. The seeds for the idea were first planted when we attended the Avenue of the Arts 20th Anniversary celebration last October. We listened as numerous speakers recounted what Broad Street was like 20 years ago- how it was devoid of business and lacked pedestrian activity. We left that event, crossed on to Broad to return home, and marveled at the amazing place the “Avenue of the Arts” had become 20 years later. We were also aware of the 50th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet and the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Opera Company of Philadelphia and believed the time was right to really celebrate all the “arts” that make the Avenue of the Arts so special. We also looked at the magnificent architecture that lined many blocks of this street and couldn’t wait to show off the Union League, the Academy of Music, The Kimmel Center, the Bellevue, and of course, City Hall, to thousands of people seated before them. Always looking for a nod to our event’s French heritage, we also knew that the City of Lyon, France was credited for the inspiration for the lighting displays that had adorned the buildings of South Broad street since 2008.
The vision for our celebration of this beautiful location, of course, could not have been possible without the support of Avenue of the Arts, Inc. We first met with Paul Biedemann, President and CEO of the council, in May. It only took a brief explanation of our vision and a few pictures of previous DEB events to prove to him this would be a great thing for the Avenue. In the months between our first meeting and the event, we carefully monitored the upcoming events on the Avenue (noting there were no performances scheduled for that night at the Kimmel Center, the Academy of Music, the Wilma Theater or the Merriam Theatre) and outlined a plan to notify businesses affected in the area. At all times the best interest of the businesses affected was the top priority of Paul and Avenue of the Arts, Inc.
Always at the center of our plan was the opportunity to highlight the rich arts and cultural heritage of the Avenue. We wanted this to be unmistakably clear as diners entered Broad Street from all directions. On the steps of the Academy of Music we had members of The Philadelphia Dance Academy Performance Ensemble: Megan Butler, Sabrina Faith, Jennifer Lameo and Megan Quinn. At the corner of Broad and Spruce we had Anthony Riley singing the Sounds of Philadelphia in a nod to Gamble and Huff. Along the Avenue we had roaming musicians and performers including: magician Justin Relkin, guitarist Todd Pritchard, altoist David Puryear, and members of Hot Club Philly: Barry Wahrhaftig, Phyliss Chapell and Rick Shyrock. In the middle of the street median we had Santiago Galeas, a painter and student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, painting the scene at the corner of Locust-one of the most popular corners for brides and grooms to pose long Broad street. Outside of the Union League, the Polish American String band posed for pictures before marching south on Broad Street, leading the napkin wave with the sounds that traditionally fill the street on New Year’s Day.
Throughout the evening, guests listened to music that celebrated Philadelphia’s rich music history, including Jill Scott, Hall and Oats, Patti LaBelle, and Boys II Men. We celebrated the jazz and soul of the city with live performances from Ernest Stuart and members of The Sermon!, as well as Eastwick Commandoes Drum Corps. DJ Bruce, with his booth framed by the iconic LOVE sign (thank you Maggpie Vintage rental), played tunes until the evening concluded with the sound of Will Smith’s “Summertime” and the launch of confetti canons reminiscent of ticker-tape parades that have graced the Avenue during so many sports celebrations before it.
All of this talent, as well as production, could not have been possible without Brian and Brendan of Mole Street, Adam Spivak, Bauder Sound, and Light Action Productions. They provided the nuts and bolts (and light bulbs and speakers!) which helped a vision and dream become a reality. Brian and Brendan have been great partners for the past three DEBs, and they always bring an amazing enthusiasm and creativity to the table. Adam appeared like a fairy godmother in our inbox one day, and he waved his magic fairy wand and helped us transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Thank you, thank you!
Read on for Part II