By Karen Rubin, David Leiberman & Laini Miranda
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Flappers and Dapper Dans packed the ferry to Governors Island for the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, June 16 and 17. Take heart if you missed the June weekend festival: there is another opportunity to transport yourself back to the Gatsby Era, on August 25 & 26.
The Jazz Age Lawn Party is a chance to push back the clock to a Gatsby-esque Brigadoon of sorts. It is the best of New York and brings out the best of New Yorkers. The music and atmosphere brings out pure joy -– it is one perennial smile.
For an entire afternoon you are transported – quite literally by ferry from the tip of Manhattan and Brooklyn – to the 1920s era of hot jazz. People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s as flappers and gents, bearing wicker picnic baskets (some with tables, tablecloths and candelabra), stream onto the island, with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. It is but a stone’s throw from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.
Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated music of the 1920s.
There is impeccable faithful reproduction – even the cocktails are Speakeasy-worthy and if you didn’t have appropriate attire, you could rent or buy vintage at one of the stalls, take a tintype photo or a photo sitting on a blue moon with a vintage camera.
Over the years, the regulars have returned, now with babies, now with toddlers, now with their little boys in their caps and suspenders, little girls with hair bows, dresses and patent leather shoes who join in the dancing.
Interlude music is provided on vintage vinyl recordings over antique gramophones.
The only thing that bursts the illusion, to jostle your memory of what year it is, are the ubiquitous cell phones.
Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed, one-of-a-kind songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure by his Dreamland Orchestra, playing the Hot Jazz of the 1920s.
The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dancefloors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Queen Esther pays tribute to jazz royalty of yore and Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; and the Gelber & Manning Band, feuding vaudevillian lovebirds quarrel, coo and make beautiful music together. Also Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society have come from Philadelphia, presents wry, spry, and certifiably Hot Jazz; The Great Dubini (Gregory Dubin), the resident magician in The McKittrick Follies at The Mandeerlay Bar, presents his unique brand of classic magic.
There are fun activities as well which you can join: the event typically starts with a dance lesson (the Peabody was being taught on Sunday), followed in the afternoon by a Dance Contest; a Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age (for entry email: firstname.lastname@example.org), and a Children’s parade.
The afternoon starts off with dance lessons in the hottest dance steps of the time, like the Peabody or Charleston. You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; the ultimate family-friendly event also features Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior Gents and Flapperettes. There’s also a 1920s MotorCar Exhibition, where you can get up close and personal with flivvers and Tin Lizzies, and Antique Gramophones that reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.
And what would a Prohibition-era, speakeasy event be without booze? Julie Reiner presents her Clover club Collection cocktails and VieVité, Côtes de Provence Rosé is the official wine sponsor of the Jazz Age Lawn Party. (Take note: you can’t bring in your own alcoholic beverages to Governor’s Island.)
The event typically sells out and tickets are only available for purchase in advance. For tickets and information visit, http://jazzagelawnparty.com/. Purchase tickets at http://jazzagelawnparty.ticketfly.com/.
Here are more highlights:
Break away from the music and dancing to explore Governors Island, by bike or foot.
A 712-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, but 800 yards off Lower Manhattan and even closer to Brooklyn, Governors Island is a sensational getaway destination in its own right – historic sites like Fort Jay and Castle Williams, bicycle paths, playgrounds, art venues, and marvelous festive “happenings.”
Be one of the first guests to stay overnight on NYC’s historic Governors Island with Collective Retreats. With unique accommodations including luxury tents (glamping) and designer modular containers, guests enjoy a full-service hotel-style retreat with unparalleled waterfront views of New York City and the Statue of Liberty (collectiveretreats.com).
You can rent bicycles at Citibikes and at Blazing Saddles (which offers a free hour-long ride weekdays before noon) and delightful surreys.
The Trust for Governors Island, also offers a wide variety of programming on public access days. Visit them at www.govisland.com for more information.
Access to the island has been greatly improved and time the island open to the public greatly expanded.
This summer, you can stay late on Fridays, when is open until 10 pm (May 25-September 14); you can have cocktails and dinner at the outdoor cafes and bars; outdoor films and other events are scheduled.
Governors Island is open daily May 1-October 31, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays from May 25-September 14 until 10 p.m.. You can get ferry schedules here (ferries during Late Fridays will run from the Battery Maritime in Lower Manhattan, located at 10 South Street), https://govisland.com/visit-the-island/ferry.
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