>>>Party like Gatsby
Photo: ©Filip wolak

Party like Gatsby

Jay Gatsby, that most famous literary creation of F. Scott Fitzgerald would have been the perfect host for the Jazz Age Lawn Party, a ‘journey’ to the 1920s, south of Manhattan.
“I can’t think of a more delightful way to spend a weekend in the city.” The city is New York and the plan, the Jazz Age Lawn Party. And those were the sentiments of photographer Bill Cunningham—specialist in street style— when he went to photograph the event for The New York Times back in 2014. Following his recent death, his recommendation now takes on special significance, on the verge of a new edition of this celebration, which has become a summer tradition in New York. It takes place twice a year, in June and August. This year, the August festival will be on the 13th and 14th.
Michael Arenella has two records out, Blue River and Just in Time.
Photo: ©Filip Wolak

The party king

Slicked-back hair, a fine moustache and a bow tie: Michael Arenella’s look is unmistakable. In his hand, a baton or trumpet, and following his lead, the Dreamland Orchestra. Besides playing at the festival, the orchestra plays in New York all year round, at venues like The Red Room and The Clover Club.

The party is held at Colonels Row, Governors Island, south of Manhattan, only reachable by ferry. For two days, the island is ‘transported’ to the swinging 20s. Fancy dress, dance contests (swing and Charleston), popular cocktails from the decade and a live jazz orchestra make this journey through time all the more credible. Leading the Dreamland Orchestra is Michael Arenella. Musician, entrepreneur and true jazz devotee, he is the founder of the festival. It all began when this son of two artists organised a small party for friends in 2005. To begin with, just 100 people attended. At more recent editions, about 10,000 entry tickets have been sold for each weekend, making Jazz Age Lawn Party a true highlight of the summer calendar in the Big Apple. There are no admission rules: everyone is welcome.
And while it is not compulsory, visitors are recommended to dress in the styles of the 20s – “one of the most colorful and formative epochs in American history,” according to the organisers. It’s an era that, nearly a century later, continues to be revered and imitated. At Governors Island, the music is played on old gramophones, photographs have a vintage look and children play the same games as their great grandparents did at Kidland. A collection of vintage cars is also transported to the island to be exhibited during the festival.
Gregory Moore and The Dreamland Follies put on a show during the festival.
Photo: ©Filip Wolak
The stage and dancefloor are, of course, the busiest places during the festival, but a great deal of the action also takes place on Colonels Row lawn. Here, visitors enjoy a picnic—also in 1920s style—between dances, all washed down with a St Germain cocktail. A combination of the liqueur of the same name and fizzy wine, sparkling mineral water and a hint of lemon, it’s by far the most popular drink among revellers. Metropolitan Seafood & Gourmet is responsible for the catering. This gourmet picnic includes everything from sandwiches to oysters and pâté.
The festival takes place outdoors.
Photo: ©Filip Wolak
Standard tickets are priced from $35, though other passes cost up to $900 (for four people). Besides the general ticket, they include access to the private bar, with its retro cocktails, and catering. The name of this VIP enclave? Gatsby’s Garden.

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