More than 5,000 people, dressed elegantly in white, came to Nationals Park in southeast D.C. on Saturday for the annual Dîner en Blanc.
It was the fifth year of the event, for which attendees do not know the location until a few hours beforehand. Though it was the fifth year the dinner has been held in the District, it began 30 years ago in Paris and has since spread to cities across six continents.
Participants paid $52 — $43 plus a $9 membership fee — none of which covers food, drinks or even a seat to sit in. Organizers say the money goes toward venue fees, security, music and other public events costs.
Attendees bring virtually everything, including a gourmet meal, and all items must be white, from outfits to tables and chairs. Rules are strictly enforced.
Looking at how some were dressed, it was clear a lot of time and thought went into the evening.
“This is a show — the costume and effort that people put into it is incredible,” said first-timer Jason Johnson, an MSNBC political analyst and Morgan State University professor. “The people are very friendly. I’ve never seen so many grown men dressed as unicorns.”
Johnson noted that while a lot of those in attendance were Black, in the VIP section where he was sitting, it was majority White.
“Literally, it’s like the parting of the Red Sea,” he said. “I don’t know why that is, because there is so much class diversity. You’ve got affluent, those less affluent, young and older. It seems like it crosses all sides of D.C., so I am surprised there is a certain level of racial segregation, but that just might be this particular room.”
Johnson, who will attend the Dîner en Blanc in Baltimore on Thursday, said he is anxious to see how the event varies from city to city.