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Halifax's white night 

The international pop-up picnic, Diner en Blanc, made its Halifax debut last weekend, here's one take on the divisive event

click to enlarge Blanc statement at the King's quad
  • Blanc statement at the King's quad

A $30 ticket is on the spendy side for any Halifax entertainment, but when that ticket is for a dinner event in a public place, where you have to bring your own food, cups, plates, napkins, forks, water and chairs, it seems outrageous. Oh, and you have to dress all in white or you’re not allowed in. But this is the formula that’s grown Le Dîner en Blanc from a Parisian lark, to an Instagram-friendly brand of annual dinners in cities around the planet. Saturday was the first DEB in Halifax, so to see this trick up close, I bought my ticket, put on my white jeans and carried a picnic basket to Dalplex parking lot. That’s where about 100 of the DEB attendees met, to walk to the undisclosed dinner location where we join the rest of the 1,000 guests/suckers/ adventurers/beautiful people/lemmings.

The secret location turned out to be King’s College, scene earlier this summer of its own 225th anniversary celebration. At the anniversary party there was no booze allowed in the school’s central courtyard, so most guests crowded into a small licensed area behind some buildings. Yet DEB managed to get wine allowed in the courtyard, which was full of long tables and an eclectic collection of white-clad fun-seekers. As people set up their chairs and place-settings, met their tablemates and settled in for the evening, it didn’t feel like King’s. Or like Halifax. Of course it was both, under the influence of the pop-up picnic.

People brought too much food, or were just being Haligonian, so tables made up of 12 separate couples became convivial feasts. At some point as the moon took over for the sun, the live background music transitioned to a performance by breakdancing mimes, followed by the lighting of the giant sparklers each guest had received—making for a beautiful, awful moment where 1,000 people fumbled for their cameras while holding fireworks. After dessert we danced. The DJ was good, the light show that transformed the old school’s main building was great. It wasn’t King’s. It wasn’t Halifax. It was magic.

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