The Jazz Age Lawn Party, my favorite party of the summer, coincided with a brutal NYC heat wave. 90 degrees Sunday morning, there were two choices:
1. Run away from the heat like an action star escaping an explosion, sequestering oneself to only air-conditioned spaces OR
2. Remember that AC was extremely rare until the 1950s, that most people didn’t succumb to heat stroke but actually managed to have rollicking good summer times, and get on that ferry to Governor’s Island!
You can bet your bloomers which one I chose!
For two weekends every summer the Jazz Age Lawn Party brings Governor’s Island back to the Roaring Twenties with music, dancing, food and drinks. What makes this lawn party so special is the people who attend. There’s an effervesce in the air, the minute you step on the boat that ferries you from downtown Manhattan to the event. A bubbly energy, like champagne. Everyone is ready to have a grand old time.
The commitment to the theme is astounding and only seems to grow every year I attend. I’d say 90% of lawn party-goers wear 1920s inspired attire. This makes the time-travel aspect of the event more magical and the attending revelers feel like a community.
There was something about the heat that actually enhanced the experience. I know that sounds crazy! But those of us who braved the heat had a camaraderie. We were all in this together, enduring the sun and committed to having the fantastic day, or at least faint trying!
I’m very happy to report no one fainted. We boarded that ferry prepared: a parasol, wide-brimmed hat, a fan.
I added all three to my heat-fighting arsenal. Locked, loaded, and may I say, more on fire than the weather!
The patches of sweat that appeared on our attire, we wore like badges of honor. We made our own shade, our own cool breezes. The bar never ran out of ice. St. Germain, the premium elderflower liquor and Jazz Age Lawn Party official sponsor, mixed the most refreshing summer cocktails I’ve ever had the pleasure of sipping. With festive names like “Flapper’s Delight” and “Strike Up the Band“.
I imagine Michael Arenella, who founded the Jazz Age Lawn Party eleven years ago, said, “Strike up the band!” at 11AM when the party officially kicked off. When I arrived at noon, the band was in full swing, I can hardly remember a moment that wasn’t filled with the musical strains of his Dreamland Orchestra. It is music that makes you want to shake a leg.
The dance floor is the life of the party, with downright cinematic performances from Roddy Caravella’s Canarsie Wobblers and The Dreamland Follies with Gregory Moore.
Roddy Caravella himself lead a beginner dance lesson, teaching the Peabody dance. A Peabody dance contest followed later in the afternoon. I couldn’t help but notice a brilliant, but somewhat atypical, couple on the dance floor. They were extremely well dressed, matching in perfect white summer suits and straw hats. Two gentlemen with an undeniable gap in age, the younger likely in his 30s, the other perhaps in his late 70s. They knew every step and spun around the dance floor never stumbling. No one was surprised when they took 1st in the dance contest.
Were they father and son? Lovers? I was dying to know! In one of the rare moments they left the dance floor, I walked up and, after showering them with complements, I asked. Turns out they are dance student and teacher! They met at this very event several years ago and the elder gentleman was so inspired he decided he wanted to take dance lessons. I love this story!
With that kind of talent out on the dance floor, it could easily be intimidating to an un-coordinated dame like me. But the dancers and the crowd are so welcoming and non-judgmental, and the music so revelrous, it’s all but impossible to resist.
Especially with signs like this!
The dance floor is such a hit, there’s even a second stage! Unfortunately it was in direct sunlight, so only the bravest dancers, with the highest SPF sunscreen ventured out there, showing true dedication! Luckily the performers were somewhat shaded. Molly Ryan and magician The Great Dubini shared this stage, delivering stellar performances all day.
Never a moment with out magic or music at the Jazz Age Lawn Party.
The music breaks were few and far between but most of us party goers took more than enough breaks. Picnicking is par the course at a lawn party.
The baskets people bring, the full spreads of every summer food you could possibly ever want to eat, it is impressive.
I might go so far as to call the Jazz Age Lawn Party the Olympics of Picnicking.
This couple takes BRONZE, scoring points for perfect wardrobe, a basket that deserves its own Pinterest board, and red strawberries on a white blanket.
This group takes SILVER, scoring points for bow ties, pie, and because the gentleman on the far left looks like he might hurt me if I don’t give him a place on the podium. (I jest, I jest! I’m sure he’s actually as sweet as that pie!)
And the GOLD in Picnicking goes to….
This beautiful mother and her baby. Babies in suspenders and newsboy caps always win, there’s no contest.
Me? I didn’t even qualify for the picnicking Olympic trials. I went to Café Dreamland, a new feature of this year’s party, and enjoyed a steak sandwich, sweet corn, and grilled vegetables. As a gal who hasn’t been to a single cook out all summer, it was just perfect.
I did bring a picnic blanket, I wasn’t completely out to lunch, and made friends with my charming lawn neighbors!
Making new friends and people-watching is just as grand as the music at this party, and that’s saying something.
The Bathing Beauties fashion promenade made us all jealous of their attire- vintage ’20s and 30’s bathing suits. All more modest than the booty short ensembles you’ll find on the modern day NYC streets.
Oh course many attendees leave the party even more stylish than they arrive. The shopping opportunities don’t stray an inch from the theme, offering true vintage as well as Jazz Age inspired style. The hat selection is the bee’s knees. Dora Marra’s creations instantly transform your head to the most festive conversation piece imaginable.
From ’20s inspired modern-day dresses on lovely dames…
To true vintage ensembles on cats and kittens…
To chic garden party fellas…
And eye-catching flappers and dappers…
Everyone looked positively swell! Dolled up! Vamp!
But, honestly, no one was more authentic to the Jazz Age period than this little guy:
In his birthday suit, he could’ve run right into 1926 and fit in perfectly with all the adorable, naked babies of the roaring 20s!
Such a wonderful event, you can’t truly understand the atmosphere until you experience. So put it on your calendar for next year, it’s a summer event not to be missed! Cheers to the Jazz Age Lawn Party!
Thank you for getting us dancing in 95 degrees, for being so delightful we forgot how hot it was!