Diner En Blanc: 3 surprising things we learned at the largest dinner party of 2016

Friday evening I arrived at a top secret location to experience the world’s largest dinner party — for only the second time in West Palm Beach. Where did Diner En Blanc take place this year? Currie Park.

As I walked from Flagler Drive to the grass field just a couple hundred feet from the inlet, I realized that the view was stunning but the atmosphere was empty. Guests hadn’t arrived and I wasn’t yet convinced that the evening would live up to its hype.

The Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 4, 2016. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

The Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 4, 2016. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

A mega event described as a flash mob meets white party? The vision wasn’t clear.

Then four commercial buses pulled up. And some of the most elegantly dressed people made their entrance. One woman wore an ensemble so beautiful it would have gotten her into Wimbledon London with royalty in the early 1900s. She carried a large white, woven basket likely filled with fine China, fresh fruits and cheeses.

Within 45 minutes, I witnessed more than 1500 ivory-cloaked guests mingling, eating and dancing at the elaborate, alfresco dinner tradition that was born in Paris and has since been replicated in more than 60 countries around the world.

One word: Insane.

Robert Suarez, center, celebrates with friends at the Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 4, 2016. The event which takes place around the world, has participants, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, meet for a mass "chic picnic" in a public space. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

Robert Suarez, center, celebrates with friends at Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 4, 2016. The event, which takes place around the world, has participants, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, meet for a mass “chic picnic” in a public space. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

Here’s what I didn’t expect to discover about Diner En Blanc West Palm Beach:

1. There’s Haitian pride all over the secret picnic that will invade West Palm for years to come. 

The concept of friends and family laughing together over a meal is one of the pillars upon which Diner En Blanc stands. It all began when a Frenchman asked a group of his closest friends to wear white and meet him at a public park with a dish.

That’s no different from the Haitian culture.

“Haiti may be going through a hard time, but the people of the Haitian culture love life, always finding time to embrace family and dine together,” said Nora David, one of the three business-savvy, fashion-inclined event planners behind Diner En Blanc West Palm Beach.

The Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 4, 2016. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

The Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 4, 2016. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

She smiled when I asked her how her culture graced the work that she does as a business woman in the city. “I’m just happy a positive side of the Haitian culture is being talked about,” she said.

2. Life Behind the scenes at Diner En Blanc is not a walk in the park.

While David explains that there is something to say about the simplicity of the event, she iterates that the work happening behind the scene is not a few hours of busy work. This year, thirty volunteers were trained in a series of meetings to keep the traditional elements of the event alive from secrecy to table rules to dress code.

3. There’s no event more turned up and peaceful at the same time.

Drinks started pouring when table legs hit the floor, and no one ate solo. Just like dinner at the wooden table in homes on the movie screen, everyone understood that they had to pick up their forks simultaneously.

After that, feet were two-stepping and bodies were grooving to salsa, reggae, hip-hop, house and EDM music. Every single person was having a good time… And with the 2016 Presidential election just days away, it was really refreshing to see people of all ages and races enjoying each other’s time.

“If we could bring peace in the world, it would be through Diner En Blanc because it is a multicultural event,” David told us as she smiled.

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