If you think only Millennials can curate visually stimulating, Instagram-worthy events tailor-made for social media, you are gravely mistaken. You’ve never been to the hat luncheon.
A 36-year-old tradition, the annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon — put on by the Women’s Committee for the Central Park Conservancy — is anecdotally referred to as the hat luncheon. It’s an event that has, since its inception in the Eighties, become exceedingly more extravagant. This year was no different.
On Wednesday afternoon in Central Park’s Conservatory Garden, waiters in white dinner jackets walked Ladies Who Lunch in couture down the stone steps leading toward a large, white tent where the awards ceremony was held. The hats ranged from Easter-inspired and low-key to downright artful; one woman’s hat was a bowl of ramen, another’s was a plate of sushi. In what was perhaps an Isabella Blow-motivated move, one attendee wore a lobster on her head. Still another wore a grass hedge shaped like a dog — with a pink leash around its neck that she held in her hand.
The garden, where guests strolled before sitting down to lunch, looked like a surrealist painting. The scene evoked New York City society assembling in the English countryside after the Kentucky Derby. Wrap your head around that.
Lela Rose sported multicolored bubbles on her hat and a two-piece matching skirt and top set. “You should have seen me biking up Eighth Avenue with this thing,” she said.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg took photos with people who can only be described as fans of his — they greeted him giddily. During lunch, when his name was announced over the loudspeaker, they clapped and cheered loudly. One woman chanted “Pres-i-dent! Pres-i-dent!”
Brooke Shields showed up sans hat. She said she was ashamed to admit she’d forgotten one.
“Believe it or not, I completely forgot and went to go look for hats and had zero,” she explained. “I literally said, ‘I don’t think I can go.’ Then I thought, maybe I’ll just take a centerpiece. I’ll steal something from the table and put it on my head. It would probably work.”
This year, former president of the Women’s Committee Suzie Aijala; the Bloomberg administration’s deputy mayor Patricia E. Harris, and founding member of the Women’s Committee Norma Dana (who still attends Conservancy meetings every now and then) received awards. The event is a big fund-raising effort, and brought in more than $4 million for the cause on Wednesday.
Still, guests couldn’t pass up an opportunity to do it for the ‘gram. Whether posing in large groups or alone, the attendees took photos of the wild hats they and their friends wore. One woman committed the ultimate faux pas of walking into another one’s picture midshot.
“Oops! Sorry,” she laughed. “What’s that called? A photobomb?”
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