The inaugural Diner En Blanc in Dallas was certainly an experience, albeit one that did not match up to their marketing whatsoever. Keeping that in mind, the organizers did try to do a good job on their first year for organizing a pop-up dinner for 1,600 people. It's a shame that this year everything that looked fabulous on paper never translated into real life, save the beautiful fireworks show at the end of the night. If it wasn't for that and mediocre Dallas standards compared to any other US city, this event would have been considered a complete flop. Sadly, this is what many Dallasites have come to expect, as many accepted the lackluster quality and organization of this event just because it was "Dallas".
On their website, Diner En Blanc describes this event as, "thousands of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance, and etiquette, all meet for a mass chic picnic in a public space." Few would say Diner En Blanc Dallas reflected these values, with obnoxiously loud "Top 40 Hits" being blasted through the speakers halfway across dinner. Many other Diner En Blanc core principles were broken, one of them asking guests to remain seated during dinner until the opening of the dance floor.
The problems began with a tedious 2 hour wait on the bus, first waiting to leave, and then waiting to get off the bus at one drop-off point. This was caused by the location - 1,600 people in a straight line on a bridge with one drop-off point is never a good idea, no matter how good the view is. With the highly stressed bus departure time clocking in at 6pm, with guests encouraged to arrive at the pick-up location from 5 to 5:30, our bus didn't leave until 6:45pm. Already, everyone is hungry but excited to be getting to the secret location, but that excitement slowly died down when they saw a line of buses stretching from the pedestrian bridge halfway across Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
Once everyone got unloaded from the buses, walked with all of their supplies to their table location, dinner was about to officially start. While the earliest guests to arrive had plenty of time to set up, many others were rushed. Our table wasn't even close to setting up when it was announced to wave your white napkins, which guests frantically did, and went back to setting up their table. From that point on, the best way to describe the evening would be, "rushed."
Once everyone was set up and eating, we all got to talking about the food we ordered and brought, ultimately reaching one conclusion: the food from their website was mediocre and overpriced. The low-end of attending this event, complete with purchase of tickets, table necessities, and food, came out to about $300. The high-end of this event, purchasing items from the online store ranged from $800 to $1000.
Halfway through dinner, the speakers started blasting songs you wouldn't even hear at a downtown club, including "Stanky Leg" on repeat for what seemed like 20 minutes. Looking at the official website for Dîner en Blanc, it states that the event, "recalls the elegance and glamour of court society." Somehow, I can't imagine French aristocracy twerking.
The highlight of the night was the beautiful firework show set to some classic songs from the 1940's, a lovely break from nonstop booming bass. Lasting over 5 minutes, the guests were dazzled by a brilliant display of light and sound that seemed like it would never end.
Some other highlights of the night include our wonderful table host, Jackson, who handled the bus delays and table placement problems expertly, making it a better experience. Another highlight of the night was the lavish media area, complete with an extensive buffet and an open bar in the midst of the few performers and special photobooths. This event probably had the highest gap in quality of experience between the media and press, and the actual guests.
Although there were many issues with this event, it was the inaugural year for this in Dallas, and one of the first times something of this type has been organized in a Dallas public space. Many aspects looked great on paper, but turned problematic when put into practice, such as the location. A fantastic view of the city on the bridge made a strategic seating plan impossible, as well as making the pickup and drop-off points tedious. At the end of the night, the organizers asked everyone for input and comments regarding this dinner. In spite of setbacks this year, I truly believe next year will be exceptional.
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