Thursday, May 6, 2022. A bit warmer yesterday – into the mid- to high 60s. Overcast and occasionally rainy.
It was a big day in the philanthropic world of New York because it was the 40th Annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon under an enormous white tent at the Garden of Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. This date also marks, coincidentally, the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Park’s creator/designer for whom the luncheon is named.
The luncheon is hosted by the Central Park Conservancy’s Women’s Committee. But it is known locally, as well as far and wide, as The Hat Luncheon.
The Women’s Committee was the idea of five New York women back in 1983. Their goal was to improve the Park via maintenance. It is a community of Central Park enthusiasts with a passion for preserving and enhancing Central Park. The Committee provides invaluable support to the Conservancy and has raised over $200 million since its inception in 1983.
The Committee is responsible for the management of many Park-wide programs, including Adopt-A-Bench, Conservancy Docents, Gilder Run paving stone program, Olmsted Visionaries planned giving program, Perimeter Association, Playground Partners, Tree Trust, and Tulips & Daffodils donations.
For nearly four decades, the Women’s Committee has raised funds for the reconstruction of major Park landmarks, including the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, re-creation of the urns at Bow Bridge and the current restoration of the Conservatory Garden. Their goals have all been met and they brought a renaissance.
I don’t know how the “hats” became the subject, but they have served the Committee well – it is probably the most popular luncheon on the charity circuit in New York. The hats are whims of fashion, a celebration to amuse; a reward. It’s a great big fun lunch where many women wear hats of a wide variety of design, and not a few of which are highly imaginative, decorative, smart, chic, colorful, and fun.
The annual event is a celebration of Central Park and highlights the role the public can play in supporting the Park. It raised just over $4 million with several hundred guests. Among them were the Park Women’s Committee President Yesim Philip, joined by Central Park Conservancy President & CEO Betsy Smith; Chairman of the Board Tom Kempner, as well as Luncheon Co-Chairs Katherine Birch, Mary Moran, Margo Nederlander, Caterina Heil Stewart, and former mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also has been a major contributor.
This year, JPMorgan Chase & Co., represented by Nelle P. Miller, and former Women’s Committee President, Alexia Leuschen, were honored for their exemplary generosity and leadership.
This luncheon returned to its traditional format under one tent in the center, Italianate Garden, after having been staged in smaller groups around the Park for the past two years of the Covid crisis.
“This year’s luncheon is a reminder that the longevity of Central Park is up to all of us,” said Betsy Smith, “and I’m delighted we are able to come together this spring in celebration of New York’s most iconic landmark.”
The luncheon was catered by Abigail Kirsch Catering Relationships — and it was delicious, topped off with strawberry shortcake. along with Whispering Angel Rosé generously donated by Château d’Esclans.
The chic, modern fabric for the tablecloths was provided by Scalamandré and floral décor was designed by Andrew Pascoe. And at the end of the luncheon, as guests exited the Garden each received a signature luncheon umbrella from Wathne, Ltd. Central Park Conservancy volunteer hats were designed and donated by Patricia Underwood.
The Central Park Conservancy is a private, not-for-profit organization that manages Central Park and is responsible for raising the Park’s annual operating budget. The Conservancy’s staff of more than 300 is responsible for all aspects of the Park’s stewardship, from day-to-day maintenance and operations to continued restoration and rebuilding projects. Additionally, the Conservancy operates the Park’s visitor centers, provides public programs, and serves as a resource for other NYC parks and for public-private partnerships around the world. For more information, please visit centralparknyc.org.
Visit centralparknyc.org/womenscommittee for more information and follow them on Instagram @centralparknycwomenscommittee.
Meanwhile, it’s definitely a favorite luncheon of the NYSD. I know those who read about it tune in to the amusement of the hats. To me, it tells you about their wearers’ sense of humor. And there is lots of it with a wonderful variety of wit and fashion — and humor — since hats of fashion are rarely worn today. It gives the girls a chance to take on another role besides looking chic and attractive at these luncheons. They’re good for a laugh and it’s all a delight. And for a good cause that we all benefit from. Here was my take …