Every summer for the past 12 years, flappers and dapper dandies have been gathering to listen to hot jazz and dance under the summer sky on Governors Island in New York Harbor. The annual event is the Jazz Age Lawn Party orchestrated by conductor and headliner Michael Arenella.
Arenella says he launched the event “to create an unfettered environment for music to be showcased and for guests to get back to enjoying simple things like music, dancing, and a picnic on the grass.” He envisioned helping attendees enjoy a summer afternoon the way people used to, specifically the way people used to in the 1920’s and 30’s.
The historical theming of the event is evident everywhere from the dance floor packed with party-goers dancing the Charleston to the period dress everyone dons. Women in t-strap heels and cloche hats with finger-waved hair and knickered men in suspenders and bow ties flock to the event. The extravagant garb is a key part of the fun. “It’s a photogenic event and people come for the fashion, music, dancing, and people-watching. It’s a mosaic of people from all around the world interpreting the 1920’s through their own unique lens,” says Arenella
One of the simple joys of the lawn party is that you can come fairly unprepared and still get into the Prohibition-era themed fun. Don’t know the steps? Instructor Roddy Caravella will teach you the Charleston and the Peabody or you can just sit back and watch the Dreamland Follies dancers in action. Don’t have the garb? Visit the vintage vendor village to buy authentic hats and headpieces, full suits and dresses. Don’t know the songs? Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra will have you toe-tapping in no time with their “hot-and-sweet” jazz.
In fact, the party program includes a full roster of bands and singers to enjoy as well as a DJ cranking out tunes on an antique phonograph. The one thing you do need to do in advance is buy a ticket. The event sells out every year which adds up to about 16,000 people partying like it’s 1920 over two weekends each summer.
But do leave your flasks at home, this party is only Prohibition in spirit — meaning there are spirits on hand to lift your spirit. Craft cocktail pioneer Julie Reiner (of Clover Club and Flatiron Lounge) offered this year’s attendees era-inspired concoctions like LaMusette Spritz and Bix’s Bramble (named after jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke).
The fun takes place annually on Governor’s Island, a 172-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor.
Musical Entertainment: Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra; Drew Nugent and The Midnight Society;
Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers; Gelber and Manning Band;
Queen Esther; Peter Mintun; Tamara Korn; Molly Ryan
Dance Entertainment: The Dreamland Follies
Magician: The Great Dubini
Photographer: Penumbra Tintype Studio; Presley Ann Photography
Mixologist: Julie Reiner
Venue: Governors Island
Event Producer: Michael Arenella; Gradient Experiential
Dance Lessons: Roddy Caravella
Emcee: Robert Ross
Design/Decor: Michael Arenella; Gradient Experiential
Floral: Urban Stems
Rentals: Bestek Lighting and Staging
Caterer (picnic baskets): Indiana Catering
Treats: People’s Pops
Food Trucks: Empanada Sonata, Mom’s Cooking
Event Sponsors: VieVité, LeJay, Bootlegger 21 NY Distilleries, Selters, Belvoir Fruit Farms,
La Mére Poulard Biscuits, The Jewish Museum, Proraso, Rouge Salon, Triumph Hotels, Jax Coco,
Earth Matter, Lucey’s Lounge, Cocktail Crate, Radeberger Pilsner, Illy