Dinner in white set at second Collingwood gala

Revelers at Collingswood's first Pop Up Gala, last September. Guests' appointed locations are kept top secret.
Revelers at Collingswood's first Pop Up Gala, last September. Guests' appointed locations are kept top secret. (KAYLEE COLLINS)
Posted: August 01, 2014

Dust off your dancing shoes, and whip out your summer whites:

Collingswood, that little hub of hipster cool in Camden County, is holding its second annual Pop Up Gala on Sept. 6.

Inspired by Dîners en Blanc, which began in Paris 1988 and spread to cities around the world, including Philadelphia, the gala is expected to attract hundreds of revelers, dressed all in white and toting all they need for an elegant D.I.Y. dinner. They will report to appointed locations in town on the night of the event.

From there, they will be led on foot to a top-secret site where they will dine and dance the night away.

"The best thing was watching everyone walking there," said Mayor Jim Maley. "It's very visual. It looks awesome."

Maley got the idea from listening to friends talk about a Dîner en Blanc event in Philadelphia.

"I said, 'We can do that. We can do our own,' " Maley said.

Like Dîners en Blanc, the gala has rules - some of them quirky. They're just part of the charm.

"Creative elegance is encouraged," say the guidelines.

Tickets are sold only in pairs; you can't go alone, although groups can sit together. When you get your tickets, you will not be told which location you will report to. That information is conveyed on the day of the event.

Team leaders will be at the various sites to lead the groups to the final destination - and even the leaders won't know where that is until they get a text telling them to get moving.

Attendees must dress all in white and bring their own table and chairs, a white tablecloth, nondisposable china, flatware and glasses, and dinner and beverage, including champagne or wine. Some type of candlelight centerpiece is also required, with faux candlelight allowed.

Live music and a DJ are provided by the town.

At the end of the night, guests pack up their gear and tidy up the site, leaving it as they found it.

Level of enthusiasm

Town officials were struck by the level of enthusiasm the gala generated.

"Once people dived into the concept, they really got into it," said Cass Duffey, Collingswood's communications director.

People came with big hats, fabulous candelabras, white gloves, white tuxedos. One party even painted a child's wagon white to cart its stuff. Another had an elaborate s'mores-making setup.

Last year's gala, held on Browning Road near Knight Park, drew about 240 people, but town officials are expecting more this year.

For one thing, South Jersey magazine recently named the gala its "Best Dining Experience" of the year - "South Jersey's own Midnight in Paris."

For another, people who went last year have announced they are coming again - and they're bringing more people.

Denine Gorniak, a bookkeeper and cooking teacher who moved three years ago from Philadelphia to Collingswood, said she was shooting for a party of 10, up from last year's four.

'More intimate'

She has been to two Dîners en Blanc in Philadelphia and will be a table leader at the one coming up Aug. 21. The Dîners en Blanc are "magnificent," she said, but the gala has a special place in her heart.

"I love it, love it," Gorniak said. "I have to tell you, I had a better time at the Collingwood event than at Dîner en Blanc. It was more intimate. It was a real coming-together of people and the town. I knew the people."

The Philadelphia events are exciting and larger scale, with more of a competitive spirit, she said, whereas the gala has more of the traits that have turned her into a Collingswood fan.

"I think there's something charming about the Collingswood event," said Gorniak, who also has a food blog. "Dîner en Blanc is magical. It's like a movie come to life. The Collingswood event is sweet."

Tickets for the gala are on sale for $40 a pair before Aug. 18. From Aug. 18 to Sept. 5, they are $50 a pair.

Maley said the money from last year's event covered the borough's costs in putting it on, with maybe a little left over. But the gala isn't intended to be a fund-raiser, he said. "It's just a fun night."


Tickets are available through Ticketleap ( http://popupgala.ticketleap.com/collingswood/details) and at Main Street Realty, 730 Haddon Ave. Guests will receive a full list of rules at the time of ticket purchase.

856-779-3893

rgiordano@phillynews.com

@ritagiordano

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