Diner en Blanc comes to Sacramento—but are you invited?

This year’s Diner en Blanc in Paris // Photo courtesy of Fabrice Malard

Registration opened yesterday for Diner en Blanc, the world-famous picnic party that is coming to Sacramento for the first time on Thursday, October 6.

You’ve probably seen photos over the years: hundreds of people dressed head-to-toe in white, dining in the streets of New York, Montreal, Dubai or Paris, where it all began. Essentially, it’s a giant flash mob. In the case of Sacramento, about 1,000 people will trek to a secret location at a designated time with folding tables, chairs and white tablecloths, ready to feast and dance until it’s time to pack up and go.

Here’s the wrinkle: despite being a massive event in a public space, it’s still invite-only. Some critics have taken to social media to call Diner en Blanc exclusionary and elitist: a private, flashy party that others can only look at as they walk by. Local organizer Christine Ault compares the event to a wedding, with hosts inviting whoever they wish to spend the evening with. But she also argues that will make the pool of attendees different from the wealthy, well-to-dos people might expect.

“It’s highly likely that there will be many typical community ‘VIPs’ that may not get invited. This is not about electeds and CEOs and sponsor tables. And as such, this really is far from elitist,” she says by email. “It’s really an event built on friendship, hosted by community members for the community they love. There’s no preferential treatment. There’s no VIP seating. Not even for sponsors.”

Sacramento’s host committee (from left-to-right) Tre Borden, Maritza Davis, Christine Ault and Bobbin Mulvaney

If you haven’t received an invitation yet, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Invites go out in phases: first to members, then invitees of members and then the waiting list, which currently stands at about 2,400 people. Ault says she’s reasonably confident the event will open up to the waiting list, though, and then it’s first-come, first-served.

If you do score an invite, it still costs $45 to go—in addition to the costs of food; assembling a fancy all-white outfit; and attaining white folding tables and chairs. Of that, $8 goes to Diner en Blanc International membership fees, enabling you to attend other events, and the rest covers venue fees, permits and entertainment costs. Ault says organizers are all unpaid volunteers and Diner en Blanc is cost-neutral.

Six local restaurants will also sell picnic baskets for guests who don’t want to lug their own food. Prices have yet to be determined, but Ault guesses they’ll be $50-$100. Mulvaney’s B&L, Empress Tavern and Fat’s Asia Bistro are among the options.

“We realize there is a tone of elitism on the surface, but if you look at the values and spirit of the event, it’s really about community celebration for all,” Ault says.

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