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The Secret Picnic

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NOTE: Harvest Noir may be held on Sun Oct 4 instead of Sat Oct 3 in the event of significant rain.

Inspired by Paris

Following the trend from Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, Berlin, New York City and Montréal, now Ottawa has its own chic picnic! Variously labeled as a gastronomique flash mob, guerrilla tea time, or rogue supper club, such sumptuous events are taking the world’s great cities by storm – inspired by a 25-year tradition of genteel annual picnic dining in Paris.

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Revelers tuck in for their picnic feast at Harvest Noir 2013. Photo credit: Jessica Hodgson

What is the secret picnic?

At the last minute, the secret location is revealed to the limited guest list. Groups of friends of all ages dress creatively in black, gather en masse for the picnic of a lifetime. They bring with them picnic baskets stuffed with locally-harvested food they’ve prepared, to celebrate the end of summer and start of the harvest, accompanied by refined string music, local wine, and friends old and new. Read more: What to bring.

What can guests expect?

Guests can expect the unexpected. There are prizes for best-decorated tables, so expect to see eclectic creations adorning tables. It is an absolute spectacle to be part of an elegantly-dressed crowd of 1,000 or so diners taking over one of Ottawa’s great urban spaces.

A party within a party

In enlightened European tradition, the VIPs of the evening are the Table Captains, or heads of tables, who each host a table of 8 or more diners. The Table Captain has the distinction of bringing to life a party within a party, by gathering groups of friends, acquaintances, and admirers to dine together and enjoy the many spectacles of the evening – the art of hosting at its finest.

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The grand finale: a celebration of light

The picnic concludes with a triumphant celebration of light. Hoisting 1,000 plus fiery sparklers to the sky, the guests create an extraordinary visual spectacle set to inspirational music that can only truly be experienced in person, leaving surprised tourists and jealous passersby, looking on in wonder.

Below: A few photos from Harvest Noir 2014.