If you happened to be downtown at rush hour last night, you would have seen people dressed in white popping up everywhere. Couples dressed to the (white) nines toting tables and chairs or small groups of elegantly dressed-in-white folks with picnic baskets. They headed to Mellon Park or PPG Plaza or three other locations, including T-stops, to meet others, all of them in white. On Ft. Duquesne Blvd, several people in white carried huge clouds of white balloons.

Shortly after six, all these people who had gathered in assigned meeting spots started their trek to an undisclosed location downtown. That’s when people on the streets dropped their jaws, bus drivers stopped en route (“What is going on here?” asked one) and Pirates fans — dressed sensibly in black and gold — did double takes and then, took phone shots.

“I feel like I’m part of a cult,” said one person in white as she walked down Penn Avenue with her large group. “The White Walkers.”

Ahead of her, a dashing man in a white tux carted a glass cage filled with flowers and two live monarch butterflies.

Photo by Dave DiCello.

All white meets black and gold downtown on Friday night. Photo by Dave DiCello.

Last night saw the Pittsburgh premiere of the global phenomenon, Le Diner en Blanc when nearly 1,000 revelers filled Gateway Center Plaza in a sea of white for an urban picnic like no other. The location was secret–secrecy is one of eight core values of the event–and the space was transformed in minutes as diners congregated.

Le Diner en Blanc was launched in Paris by François Pasquier 27 years ago as a gathering of his friends upon his return to the city. So many came that he asked them to dress in white so they would all recognize each other. Today, Le Diner en Blanc Paris hosts over 15,000 people. And these dinners are now international with more than a dozen cities — Detroit and Philly among them — participating.

Pittsburgh’s Le Diner en Blanc was organized by Jenny Altman, Crystal Vangura and Trisha Daniel, three charming young Pittsburghers who were notably organized, calm and collected at the event. It seemed to go off without a hitch on a perfect evening–just warm enough, no wind–as diners set up their tables at assigned spots as if they had all done this before then sat down to enjoy the meal, the music and the camaraderie.

Not that it was easy. Those who purchased tickets were instructed not only to wear all white–no ivory, please!– but also to bring white tables and chairs, plates and cutlery (no plastic allowed) plus their own dinner and wine. The only color allowed? Flowers for the table. Luckily, there was an option to buy a catered dinner, supplied by Bella Sera.

It was a spectacular sight that only got more dramatic at twilight when the light softened. At 8:30 p.m., everyone lit sparklers as the dancing and entertainment got underway.

We saw many friends and met people from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. who made the trip just to participate. Some warmly invited us to join them for dinner. (Merci!)

Here are some highlights in photos.