Dîner en Blanc – Philadelphia – The Story Unfolds

Dîner en Blanc – Philadelphia – The Set Up

Another edition of the popular pop up summer white party – Dîner en Blanc is in the books.  This year the pop-up party celebrated the 7th time they had dinner in a public space in Philadelphia.  Although one of the elements of the party is the secret location, it’s far from a secret as the organizers have to scout out a perfect location, one that is easy to access through public transportation, easy to walk to, then they rent the spot, get permits, insurance, arrange for security, lighting, sound and entertainment (this year they had 75 performers), and contract many of the vendors who operate during the event.  The ticket for the event is an affordable $45 a person, but the reason people interpreted as exclusive is it’s difficult to get in as it’s done on a lottery system and every year only 300 more spots open up (which is actually a lot. Many of the events I cover have 200 people and that’s a lot.) Currently 5,500 people are “members”, every year it they increase the number 200, making next years guest list 5,700 attendees. At 5300 this year, it’s the 2nd time it’s become the LARGEST IN THE COUNTRY, beating out even NYC where the event has been held longer than Philly.


I headed out to the Parkway on August 16, 2018, around 6PM to find diners on their way to meeting spots to join their table leaders. The Diner en Blanc organizers purposely start the assembling of people after rush hour to not affect the bulk of those heading home. Having the event on a 3rd Thursday in August is also helpful, as many people are squeezing the last days of summer on vacation, and the City is fairly empty.

I saw quite a few people heading to the Art Museum steps to board buses to head to the secret location. I remember the days I didn’t know the location before the day of the event, it was always a fun scavenger hunt trying to guess the final destination.  It’s amazing to see the event grow to 5,500, the first year. 2012, which was held at Logan Circle, was just 1300 guests.
As one of the official event photographers of Diner en Blanc,

I knew a few days before so that I could scout out the best vantage points for photographing the set up.

Plus I don’t want to be at a meeting spot too far away from the final spot so I can capture the shots I want.
These folks are headed to Logan Fountain for their meeting spot. (Thanks to the Solomon’s for the use of their Apt, and to Pipeline co-working space)
The meeting spot at Logan Fountain

Launched with just a handful of friends by François Pasquier nearly 30 years ago, Le Dîner en Blanc® de Paris now assembles over 10,000 guest every year, with a record 15,000 people attending the 25th anniversary in 2013. The French capital’s most prestigious sites have played host the event over the years: The Pont des Arts, the Eiffel Tower, Place Vendôme, the Château de Versailles, the Esplanade de Notre-Dame, the Esplanade des Invalides, the periphery of the Place de l’Étoile, the Champs-Élysées, Place de la Concorde, Le Louvre Pyramid, Trocadéro Esplanade, and the Palais Royal Garden!

Folks waiting at 15th & JFK for the next instruction from their Table Leader, except that women in the orange as that shirt wouldn’t fly at an event where you’re supposed to wear all white, off white happens as well tooI don’t think Dilworth Park has ever been this clean. The 5 second rule definitely applies here.
The Table Leaders names are marked down in rows in order to lay the tables down in an orderly fashion. All of this is done on paper months before to guarantee they can fit all 2750 tables
At the last minute, the secret location is revealed to thousands of friends who have all been patiently waiting to learn where “Dîner en Blanc” will take place.
The tables will be covering as much of the City Hall apron as possible, at the time of the confirmation with the City for the space, it seems like the City had a secret of their own that the north and east side would be under construction. Which Diner en Blanc found out, and ICE protestors, a few weeks ago.

Yes, consenting guests pay to cart their tables, food, and supplies to the summer pop up dinner, and they continue to come back year after year to do it. It’s like going to the beach and carting well everything you need, without the sweat running down your face burning your eyes with SPF. Diner en Blanc also has a charity component.  Cherri Craig KYW Radio report – Secretive Dîner en Blanc this week to benefit Broad Street Ministry
These folks arrived first and placed their tables in their assigned spot in the Courtyard of City Hall.
Table settings can be simplistic or elaborate like this group table was. Tomorrow I’ll showcase the best table decor.

Diners place their tables in order according to directions from their Table Leaders.
The tables have to be a certain size as it is taken under consideration for the lay out. 27″ x 27″ x 27″

Over 75 artists, musicians, performers, and DJs put on lively shows throughout the City Hall courtyard, Dilworth Park, and Paine Plaza. The local talent reflected the international theme and included the infamous Drew Nugent Band with Queen Esther, the Philadelphia Pan Stars Steel Orchestra, Siempre Salsa Philly, John Byrne Band & Cummins Irish Dancers, the West Philly Orchestra, and many more. Guests also enjoyed ping pong courtesy of SPiN Philadelphia and cheered on skateboarders dressed in white riding through the crowds.

Around 715pm attendees wave their linen napkins to signify the start of dinner

Here is the table set up in the courtyard
At 9:15 the sparklers come out, which signifies the end of dinner, and the beginning of the dance party

There was music in every nook and cranny at the event, entertaining the vast crowd.
This spot is across from McCormick & Schmidt’s

The West Philly Orchestra was entertaining in City Hall Courtyard

The local talent reflected the international theme which included the notorious Drew Nugent Band alongside Queen Esther, the Philadelphia Pan Stars Steel Orchestra, Siempre Salsa Philly, John Byrne Band & Cummins Irish Dancers, and the West Philly Orchestra. There was dancing in every open space.

Artist Alloyius Mcilwaine was on-site painting a multi-colored canvas of the Philadelphia skyline, to be auctioned off to benefit Broad Street Ministry, a non-profit that delivers meals and aid to individuals in need.

Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia is an entirely volunteer-run organization, from the co-hosts to the group leaders, table hosts and on-site coordinators. This event was planned and executed by individuals who are committed to bringing a unique and special event to the City of Philadelphia.

And before you know it 4 hours has passed and another Diner en Blanc Philly is in the books.
As we have seen other DEB cities struggle to use public space or to work with their city officials, we are reminded again and again of how fortunate we are to be planning this event in the City of Philadelphia. In particular, we thank the Office of the City Representative, Managing Director’s Office, Streets Department, Philadelphia Police Department & Philadelphia Fire Department.  Special thanks to Jazelle Jones, Mechelle Sabb, & Robert Allen in the Managing Director’s Office who helped us orchestrate city services for the event, from street closures to police to sanitation services.

Check out an article on the two women who brought Diner en Blanc to Philly 7 years ago. Two women who experienced it and thought it would be a great time for those in Philly, and boy were they right. Also check out photos at
Philly Voice
Phila Biz Journal
Monday PhillyStyle will have photos
and Monday on ChitChat I’ll have the Best Table Decorations
Tuesday Best Fashions
Wednesday Epic Photos