Le Dîner en Blanc pops up in the Parc Cartier-Brébeuf

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Photo: Shirley Nadeau

Friends and couples set up their beautifully decorated tables in the Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site for the Dîner en Blanc.

Imagine this: you are going for your usual leisurely stroll or gentle jog through your local riverside park and you suddenly discover it has been “invaded” by over 2,000 people, dressed entirely in white and carrying picnic baskets! 
Welcome to the eighth annual Dîner en Blanc, held at the Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site on the shore of the St. Charles River in Limoilou. 
Launched 30 years ago in Paris by François Pasquier and a small group of friends, Le Dîner en Blanc encourages friendship, elegance, gallantry and a feeling of being part of the community. Every year, around the world, thousands of people dressed in white gather in the centre of the most prestigious locations in their cities, carrying picnic baskets, each filled with a sophisticated meal, china plates, crystal (or glass) wine glasses, good silverware (no plastic, please!), tablecloths and good humour, to enjoy one of the most magical evenings of the year.  
“It consists purely and simply of the most chic, fun and entertaining evening of the summer. We love to surprise people,” says Quebec City Dîner en Blanc co-organizer Dany Boulette. Diners are bussed from pick-up points around town to the location, which is kept secret until minutes before arrival. 
Since the founding of Dîner en Blanc International, Dîners en Blanc are celebrated in some 80 cities in 30 countries, with close to 120,000 participants each year. The largest and best known Dîner en Blanc is in Paris, where the event originated. It attracts close to 10,000 people each year! In Quebec City, 2,082 people registered this year.  
The first Dîner en Blanc in Quebec City was held in August 2011, in the park in front of the Gare du Palais on Boulevard Charest. Some 850 people attended that dinner. Since then the event has grown to over 2,000 diners, and the location changes every year. Last year it was in the Jardin Saint-Roch, and in previous years it has been held at the Manoir Montmorency, on Quai 22 overlooking the St. Lawrence River, at the Domaine Cataraqui, in the sunken garden behind the Grand Théâtre and around the Tourny Fountain. Organizers start looking around for a likely spot in the spring of each year. Co-organizer André Auger said they must first contact the property owners for permission to hold the event on their land. 
When diners arrive, they have to pick up a table and two chairs and arrange them in designated rows. They then “dress” their tables with real tablecloths, flowers, candles or whatever artistic flourishes strike their imaginations. Once everyone is ready, a signal is given with the waving of napkins and everyone tucks into their chic picnic.
At the end of the meal, signalled by the lighting of feux de bengal (sparklers), the dance party begins, and continues until 11 p.m. Then everyone must pack up their picnic baskets, fold up their table and chairs and head back to the bus that brought them to return to their pick-up point. 
This year’s Dîner en Blanc was blessed with good weather; not a drop of rain fell, although it was very humid. Rain or shine, the dinner must go on! 
The organizers say they want to keep the event to about 2,000 people, because it is not fun if it gets too big. Some 400 people were refused this year. Registration is first opened to those who attended the previous year, then it is opened to friends of those who have previously attended; the remaining spots are given out based on a waiting list. 
The dress code (all white) is very strict. If someone shows up not wearing the proper chic white attire, they will not be invited to return the following year.
To put your name on the waiting list for the 2019 Dîner en Blanc, visit dinerenblanc.com.   
Some table decorations were more elegant than others! Cheers!  
QCT contributor Charles André Nadeau and editor Shirley Nadeau and other partygoers enjoy a glass of champagne while waiting for a bus to pick them up at a local BMW dealership and take them to the secret destination. 
Caroline Fournier made her own dress and this kilt for her husband, Andrew Greenfield, after proving through Ancestry.com that in spite of the fact he is from England, he has a high percentage of Scots blood.  
All photos above by Shirley Nadeau (or her camera in the case of the photo with her in it!)