Leave it to New York City to throw a great theme party.
Riding the ferry to Governor's Island in New York Harbor this weekend was like stepping out of a time machine. Now in its eighth year, the island's biannual Jazz Age Lawn Party attracted more than 4,500 guests to relive the 1920s and 30s. The festival is the brainchild of Georgia native Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra, who set a lively mood with renditions of vintage tunes. Accompanied by a few friends, I donned some era-appropriate attire and headed there to see the festival for myself.
New Yorkers love having an excuse to dress up (take it from me; I'm a New Yorker born and raised), and that they did. The scene was reminiscent of something straight out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s "The Great Gatsby"; walking through the crowd, I felt like Gil Pender realizing he’d stepped into a bygone era in the film "Midnight in Paris."
The crowd was packed with attendees dressed in character; woman wore lacey frocks and carried parasols (a good guard against the blazing sun), while men donned suspenders, bowties, and slicked-back hair. Even a toddler played the part, sporting a newsboy cap and selling 25-cent candies.
Between performances from groups such as The Minsky Sisters and The Dreamland Follies, the floor was open for guests to dance. Professional swing dancers offered lessons to those of us with two left feet. Other attractions included photo booths, a vintage car exhibition, and a "Kidland" play area to keep children entertained. Vintage vendors lined the lawn, offering everything from period clothing to handcrafted headpieces and boas.
Alongside the stage, guests lounged on picnic blankets. Though attendees were welcome to bring their own food, the festival sold an assortment of dining options as well. NY–based restauranteur Jimmy Carbone put together an era-inspired gourmet food menu complete with a raw bar offering up oysters and shrimp cocktail. A booth by St. Germain served cocktails designed for the event, including Sangria Flora with fresh berries. Guests were required to buy food tickets to pay for food that varied in price by portion and vendor. The typical meal cost $6-$12 and included water and chips.
The two-day festival was held in June and August this year. Check back at JazzAgeLawnParty.com for future dates of next year's festival, and watch for upcoming ticket sales. (This year, advance general admission tickets cost $30 and were $35 at the door; Children under 12 entered for free. VIP tickets were also available, ranging in price from $49-$149. VIP packages included admission, cocktails, food, and “Dreamland” paraphernalia.) In the event of bad weather, the festival has offered a rain date, as it is held outdoors.
Photos by Alexa Di Benedetto