Wednesday night the annual Diner en Blanc event took place, which is a large BYO-dinner in which everyone who attends wears white. It looks like what would happen if the Source Family hosted a picnic during the height of their popularity, but a little fancier and with more feathers. Attendees lean towards the formal and whimsical side of the fashion spectrum, and often bring pricey set-ups to the location (which they are given just before the event takes place; this year it was at Battery Park City’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Park). They even went all out last night, with full knowledge that of the weather events promising a humid, stormy evening.
Indeed, as the weather experts predicted, a sudden torrential downpour occurred. Diane Blackman, who heads up PR for the event, told Gothamist, "Organizers always monitor the weather forecasts in each city and given the possibility of inclement weather in New York last night, the New York organizers recommended to our guests that they bring (clear or white) umbrellas and be prepared for some rain, which they did."
This made for a great photo opportunity, but then came the thunder and lightning. As things escalated quickly, Blackman says they "had no choice but to shut down the event for safety and security purposes. But the guests loved all the entertainment and the evening until the heavens opened up, and they were so good-natured about the situation... I saw a lot of guests under the building scaffolding across the street as the rain came down, laughing and chatting with each other, a bonding moment!" Here's what that "bonding moment" for 5,500 guests looked like:
— Randy (@xvi_m_xx) July 18, 2019
While some did seem to take it in stride, not everyone was "laughing and chatting" as they scrambled for safety.
“No matter how positive I try to be, this was a total waste of my time and money. Poor planning including time management with group leaders as well," a poster on a private message board about the event wrote. "Then the rain; it was predicted to be a thunderstorm. I would have appreciated if there was some care in the world about that from the organizers. There were no backup tents as expected. We were told to leave our things, get off the lawn, and find shelter to avoid lightning. After the rain subsided a bit, we went back for our things and noticed there was looting going on. Someone stole our vase and light. We almost lost our chairs… thankfully someone saw them elsewhere."
Another attendee echoed that sentiment: "This was a very bad call not to postpone to another time and have a rain date. The weather forecast was almost 100% dangerous thunderstorms and lightning which puts people in danger and then not to mention the chaos packing up and leaving under strict orders to evacuate... I am just so disappointed in the poor judgment of risking so many factors when this could have all been avoided by a rain date."
While these are adults who had full access to the weather report ahead of time, there is also some reliance on organizers of events to make the right call.
— Sissel Juul Jensen (@Sisseljuul) July 18, 2019
There had been some notes about disorganization even before the rain began. One attendee wrote, "I was in one of the last groups to arrive. By the time I set up my table, and joined the LONG line to get my food and wine, I had already missed the napkin wave. Then by the time I got my food and returned [to] the table, I felt the first raindrop. It rained so hard that my food was completely ruined. $200 worth of food. Not to mention the $100 for tickets, and the other $300 spent preparing for and traveling to the event. I work in retail and I don’t make much. I do NOT have money to throw around like this. I saved up for this ALL YEAR, and I can’t be the only one. I am absolutely FURIOUS. I want a FULL REFUND."
Diner en Blanc costs around $53 per ticket, and guests typically bring their own food, drinks and set-ups, which bump that price up quite a bit.