A tip of the hat to the 39th annual Frederick Law Olmsted luncheon

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Tuesday's luncheon at Bethesda Terrace as part of the 39th annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021. It was a very warm and sunny beautiful day, yesterday in New York. The temps  hit the mid-80s. It was 77 degrees when I came home from dinner. 

I’d just come in from dinner with a friend at Sette Mezzo. Perfect night for outdoor dining, and lotsa people which is a natural need right now as we return to the real world. 

We sat outside amongst many others and there were lots of familiar faces from this table looking on: the Karen and Richard LeFrak with Hilary and Wilbur Ross; Fernanda Niven, in for a couple of days from Palm Beach, with Sydie Lansing; Kathy Sloane, Rochelle and David Hirsch (JH’s parents); Emilia Saint-Amand; and dozens of others just like ‘em. Neighbors New York style. Everyone is potential neighbor in this great big town. Perhaps it’s the warmer weather, but you can see the attitudes beginning to lift.

Yesterday was also the first day of the 39th annual Frederick Law Olmsted luncheon, popularly known as the Hat Luncheon, hosted by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. Diary readers are aware of the annual celebration of the millenary side of life. Its title is not the official one but everyone calls it like it is. 

The Vanderbilt Gate at the entrance to the Conservatory Garden. The gates once stood at the mansion of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, located at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street. Later, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, gifted the gates to the City.

It’s a kind of celebration of the Springtime and the Park and the simple joy of it. This is its 39th! An idea that came to five or six New York women who made it happen. What started out as a small luncheon to honor those who’d contributed to restoring and maintaining the Park, is now attended by (I’ve heard) 1500 men and women.

The “hats” for this annual Springtime evet turned it into a pleasure of an event. Funny too, from my point of view because so many of the chapeaux were “statements” including irony, architectural, haute couture and Easter parade. You’re watching the pleasure of the Park represented by hats. It’s the best side of us.

Anyway, things being as they’ve been in the past year, this year’s Luncheon was organized in different areas of the park. I was invited to one in the Conservatory Garden – which is where the tented luncheon was always located. Right now it is a beautiful lawn. The Garden is immense and elegant and an environment.

I was assigned to a place on the south part of the garden, up a dozen steps to a terrace overlooking the lawn and the Vanderbilt gates and Fifth Avenue. It was a perfect day for that view. Just beyond on the avenue it was a near traffic jam moving south slowly because of the number of cars and trucks.

It’s a leisure but also a working lunch New York style. Abigail Kirsch Catering made it delicious and just right for the day. The main course was a chicken salad that was delicious along with some unidentifiable veggies and lettuce.

A committee member got up to read the annual report to the guests at the four tables of ten. One impressive fact: in its now decades-long existence, the Women’s Committee has raised $195 million for the care, restoration and upkeep of the Park. It is an awesome task when you consider it, but it’s met by equally awesome individuals who can pull it off. It’s good news for all of us, aside from the presence of the Park.

Event co-chairs were Abigail Baratta, Sarah Britton, Liz Peek and Cynthia Wagner were joined by Women’s Committee President Yesim Philip, President & CEO of Central Park Conservancy Betsy Smith, Chairman of the Board, Tom Kempner, Conservancy trustees, and donors. Guests included Suzie Aijala, Allison Aston, Michael Bloomberg & Diana Taylor, Norma Dana, Lauren Santo Domingo, Ainsley Earhardt, Anne Harrison, Gillian Hearst, Eleanora Kennedy, Sheila Labrecque, Elaine Langone, Alexia Leuschen, Karen May, Gillian Miniter, Margo McNabb Nederlander, Elyse Newhouse, Kara Ross, Mitchell & Mary Silver, Laurie Tisch, and Suzy Welch.

Fabric for the tablecloths that matched the blue and white themed event was provided by Scalamandré and floral décor was designed by Andrew Pascoe. Each guest received a traditional Central Park Conservancy matching umbrella from Wathne, Ltd. Central Park Conservancy volunteer hats were designed and donated by Patricia Underwood.

There were multiple luncheons going on around the park including the Conservatory Garden and Bethesda Terrace. JH stopped by both locations and he has shared them here for your viewing pleasure. And don’t worry, we’ll be gathering even more over the next few days.

And 30 blocks south at Bethesda Terrace  …

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