Last night’s rain didn’t stop 4,500 party-goers dressed in all white from descending on the Navy Yard on South Broad Street, armed with clear umbrellas, tables, chairs, gourmet meals and many bottles of wine for Diner en Blanc.
“We picked the location because we really wanted to highlight the importance it played in Philadelphia's history, and the role it’s playing in shaping Philadelphia today,” said Diner en Blanc co-host Natanya Dibona, who has her own connection to the Navy Yard: Both of her grandfathers and several great uncles worked there. “We also absolutely fell in love with the buildings right on the parade grounds and absolutely loved the way they looked lit up,” she added.
The tables, many decorated with candles or string lights, were set up in multiple sections of long rows, with wide aisles punctuated by oversized ball lights giving a glow to the dark parade grounds. Right in the middle was the crowded dance floor, packed with people dancing to the DJ during the second half of the evening.
Kory Aversa, who provides public relations for the event, commented that it was the most people he’d ever seen dancing at Diner en Blanc, and it was a more lively party scene than in past years (this was the fourth Diner en Blanc in Philadelphia).
Everyone stuck to the all-white mandate; scattered throughout the crowds were elaborate white hats and headdresses, a few formal gowns, tall peacock feathers, and at least one set of angel wings. The evening started with grumbles about the rain, but as the night went on, and more wine and bubbly were ingested, the complaints simmered down and revelers rocked their wet hair with panache.
There was a sticky 15 minutes or so when a small portion of the crowd, escaping the rain, surged onto the covered porch reserved for Diner en Blanc organizers, the performers, and members of the media. For the rest of the night, security stood on the steps that led up to the porch and diligently checked media passes.
Later in the night, as the end-of-meal sparklersfizzled out and even more people headed to the dance floor,drag queen Martha Graham Cracker appeared in a Marilyn Monroe wig and “Seven Year Itch” dress, belting out Chaka Khan’s “Tell me Something Good,” followed by a Beatles medley, a little Guns N’ Roses, Prince’s “Purple Rain” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in tribute to Judy Garland, who once gave a concert in the same spot. At one point she stumbled on the wet stage and lost a shoe — a towering clear platform heel — but didn’t miss a beat.