Secret soirée to return to Grand Rapids

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Guests wave white napkins in the air at the 2021 Le Dîner en Blanc at Veterans Memorial Park. Courtesy Le Dîner en Blanc Grand Rapids

An annual worldwide pop-up picnic is coming to Grand Rapids for its second year.

Le Dîner en Blanc Grand Rapids is scheduled to take place from 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, rain or shine.

In keeping with tradition, the whereabouts of the event will remain a secret until the last minute, but organizers said it will take place in one of the iconic areas of the city.

Le Dîner en Blanc is an international event that takes place annually in cities all over the world.

Le Dîner en Blanc Grand Rapids is organized by Kristian Grant, Tarona Guy and Jamecia Adams. They fell in love with the concept and decided to pitch Grand Rapids as a venue to the international body.

“My partners and I, in 2019, reached out to the international company to explore how we could host an official Dîner en Blanc event in Grand Rapids. We had to do a lot of convincing to the international company,” said Grant, who added the people she talked to at the organization, based in Montreal, Canada, had never even heard of Grand Rapids.

“We had to tell them about all of the international companies that are based here and how connected we are to the rest of the Midwest.”

Last year’s event took place on three streets surrounding Veteran’s Memorial Park near the Grand Rapids Public Library.

“Imagine someone in the library looking out the window seeing 600 people descending on the park and having the time of their lives for just a few hours,” Grant said.

The organizers worked closely with the city to shut down streets and informed all the businesses and residents there would be “something” going on, and that they were welcome to join them.

Guests can bring their own food or purchase food at the event. Grant said many people who attended last year’s event purchased food from the surrounding restaurants.

“I am so excited about this year’s location. We have all these different neighborhoods and communities in Grand Rapids. It’s going to be completely unexpected and a lot different from last year,” she said.

People who wish to attend must wear white only and bring chairs, a table and a white tablecloth. Guests are encouraged to bring their finest dinnerware to the event (no paper or plastic is allowed). Guests are required to leave with all of their belongings, leftovers and litter.

The event, which means “Dinner in White” in French, began in Paris in 1988. A man named François Pasquier had just returned to the city with his family after living in Tahiti for several years. He wanted to host a dinner to see all of his friends, but his back yard was too small for such an event, so they decided to have a picnic in one of Paris’ well known public spaces. To make it easy to spot one another, the guests decided to dress in white.

The concept grew and now is celebrated in more than 120 cities in 40 countries around the world.

“The tricky part is getting on the list. The way the event is built, it’s meant to be exclusive, but extremely diverse. The best way to go is if you know who is going is to convince them to bring you as a plus one,” Grant said.

The price to attend the event is $43, with an additional $10 membership fee to join the international organization.

Grant said organizers are expecting 800 guests at this year’s Dîner en Blanc Grand Rapids. Priority is given to people who attended in 2021. People who wish to join the waiting list can visit the website.

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