Thursday, May 3, 2018

Trolling for hats

Some, if not all of the ladies above came up to New York from Miami to attend the now famous Women's Committee of the Central Park Conservancy's annual "Hat Lunch." Their spirit was part of the energy that made yesterday's event even more special, an example of the power of women in managing the community.
Wednesday brought the 36th anniversary of the 36th annual Frederick Olmsted Awards luncheon known to the world as the Hat Luncheon hosted by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. Jeff Hirsch and I have been covering it for the NYSD for the past 15-plus years. Before that I was introduced to it in the early ‘90s by my friend Joy Ingham.  Somewhere in those early days  (for me)  it became popular for women to “dress” for the occasion including wearing a hat.

It’s a happy event but it has grown in size in those years from the early days of a few dozen, then a couple of hundred guests to more than 1200 attending yesterday. From that early time, it has evoved into an important fundraiser for the Women’s Committee (i.e., the Central Park maintenance and renovation) of the Conservancy.

Harry Benson's view of DPC taking pictures at the Central Park Conservancy "Hat Lunch," circa 2010. I think I was taking a picture of Harry taking a picture.
During those years, it has evolved into what we back then referred to as the “Hat Luncheon” (because guests got into the habit of “dressing” for the occasion including wearing hats). The event has become so popular that it now even draws contributors (mainly women) coming up from Miami (they brought the weather with them) to attend.

Hat designers such as Eric Javits caught on to the idea early and contributed to its growth. And yesterday, number 36, with more than 1200 attending and sitting at tables of ten priced from $15,000 to $100,000, with a pink and green garden themed tent designed by Andrew Pascoe Floral, it was a real celebration of a good idea.

The event raised more than $4 million and they also honored Michael Bloomberg for also contributing an additional $4 million to the Women’s Committee’s $5 million capital campaign for the repair of the Conservatory Garden’s  6-acre garden infrastructure and architectural components. The funds raised outside of Mr. Bloomberg’s contribution goes directly to underwriting the maintenance and upkeep of the Park which is not funded by the taxpayers.

I like the luncheon for what it achieves for the Park financially and for the fun of it. In this great town full of serious enterprise and business of all kinds, the Park is our respite with nature, the place to get away from it all and let Mother Nature be your comforter. The  Hat Lunch does just that. For reasons I cannot explain. But I also like it because it’s a moment when people, mainly women, take the time to dress for it, personification of celebrating a special moment. Which is the Park for us New Yorkers. The atmosphere was festive with flowers — everywhere including on many heads in the room.  Just fun; a simple pleasure for all. 
Photographs by DPC