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Interview with Tyson Villeneuve, Co-organizer of Le Dîner en Blanc – Vancouver

Since its inaugural edition in 2012, Le Dîner en Blanc has met with resounding success in Vancouver. In 2016, for its 5 th edition, it brought together 6,000 people, making it the second largest Le Dîner en Blanc around the globe (with the top position garnered by Paris, of course). The craze over the Vancouver event pushed co‑organizers Tyson Villeneuve and Jordan Kallman to launch this unique evening in various western Canadian cities: Calgary, Edmonton, and Victoria. On the eve of the 30 th anniversary of Le Dîner en Blanc de Paris, we set out to find out how the event is perceived in that end of the country. Interview with Tyson Villeneuve.

You have been organizing Le Dîner en Blanc since 2012. What motivated you to embark on this adventure?
I had heard about Le Dîner en Blanc while living in France in 1998, and I thought it was a wonderful concept. A few years later, when I found out that the Paris team was looking to develop an event in Vancouver, I wrote to Mr. Pasquier, founder and organizer of Le Dîner en Blanc in Paris, to obtain the foreign reproduction rights. I love the notion of showcasing fellowship and sharing over a meal. In this era of social media, it is important that we see one another in person instead of texting.

How much time does organizing Le Dîner en Blanc require?
As soon as one Dîner en Blanc ends, we hit the ground running. Therefore, we work 364 days a year! The organization is complex, one that requires a lot of logistics. But it’s all worth it. Our Dîner en Blanc events sell out every year. Le Dîner en Blanc – Vancouver has been a success since its inaugural edition.

How do you explain the success of Le Dîner en Blanc – Vancouver?
Vancouver is a city of foodies … of people who love to go out. It is also home to 56,000 Francophiles. So, for our Dîner en Blanc events, we enjoy inviting Francophone musicians to highlight the French culture. I, myself, am half French. The idea of living à la française for a chic evening out, all decked out in white, is quite alluring, and the concept is equally unique. And while drinking alcohol outdoors is usually banned, Le Dîner en Blanc makes it a special opportunity to celebrate among friends.

Tell us about two good memories of your Dîner en Blanc events.
No one can ever forget their very first Le Dîner en Blanc. For me, it took place right here under the Olympic cauldron of Jack Poole Plaza, near the waterfront. A group of jazz and other musicians provided the entertainment that evening. It was magical. Another year, my team and I hired singers from the Vancouver Opera as well as ballet dancers. We were privy to Carmen’s aria, accompanied with dancers meandering among the tables, complete with a pianist. It was wonderful. And immediately afterwards, a zouk group took over!

Do you plan to go to Paris for the 30th anniversary?
Of course! I’ll be going with my wife. At least 80 people from our city also want to go, in addition to our 130 table leaders. This is a unique event, and these very committed people don’t want to miss it. It is going to be an extraordinary party.

How do you see a trip with over 80 people?
I anticipate the trip will go very well! Everyone is very excited and can’t wait to go to Paris because that is where it all began for Le Dîner en Blanc.

If you had to organize Le Dîner en Blanc de Paris, at what site would you choose to hold the event?
At Versailles for sure, even though it has already been held there, or even on the Champs-Élysées. Otherwise, the Bois de Boulogne would allow us to return to our roots, since that is where the first Dîner en Blanc was held. The Grande Arche de la Défense would also provide a spectacular venue.

Beyond the event itself, what does Le Dîner en Blanc mean for you?
For me, it’s a dream come true, one that I have pursued for a year. When I set my mind to organizing it in Vancouver, no one thought I would be able to pull it off because of all of the red tape. But I succeeded, and I am very proud of it. Here we are at our seventh edition, and the event is a huge hit.

Text: Diane Stehlé

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