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Quebec City: An Interview with Host André Auger

Following the Montreal debut of Le Dîner en Blanc in 2009, and before the phenomenon went global, Quebec City and New York City were the first to celebrate the Parisian tradition. Quebec held their inaugural event at the Gare du Palais in 2011. Last year, Le Dîner en Blanc de Québec celebrated its 5th anniversary in the Old Port.
 
The 6th edition of Le Dîner en Blanc de Québec is set to take place on August 11th at an undisclosed location in the provincial capital. For all the details, visit quebec.dinerenblanc.info. In anticipation of what will no doubt be another extraordinary event, we took the opportunity to ask André Auger, Quebec’s original host, all about his history, his experiences, and some of his insights into the event he holds so dear to his heart…
 
1 - How did you come to organize Dîner en Blanc?
 
When I saw the first edition of Le Dîner en Blanc de Montréal on the news (on Les Francs-tireurs 2010 - Télé-Québec), I totally fell in love with the event… and was jealous at the same time. I didn’t see why Quebec City didn’t have its own Dîner en Blanc. We were still in the throes of celebrating Quebec’s 400th anniversary and the city was lit up with activities. But it seemed to me that Le Dîner en Blanc could be another opportunity to truly honour our city, with its grand spaces and rich heritage. I had to organize this event. I wanted to give this gift to my city.
 
2 - How is Dîner en Blanc different from any other event in which you’ve been involved?
 
For over 25 years now, I’ve organized corporate events (conventions, banquets, decorations, entertainment), and I had never organized an event that was open to the public. Le Dîner en Blanc is a mix of “public” and “private.” Members and friends of the organizers register first, while the remaining spots are offered to the public. These people likewise become members and raise the number of participants, year after year.
 
The ambiance at the event is beyond compare. Every face is lit up with a smile. No one is in a bad mood, there’s no excessive criticism, and all are involved in making a perfect moment of the night. The magic of “En Blanc” prevails.
 
3 - What is it about your city that embraced the concept so enthusiastically?  
 
Quebec is a city that knows how to have a good time, that goes without saying… but beyond that, we take great pride in it. The people of Quebec love to show off their city, celebrate it, and create memorable moments. Le Dîner en Blanc allows for this kind of revelry.
 
The quality of the photos and the videos produced each year become beautiful tools with which to promote future event. The mystery that surrounds the event location always creates a memorable moment. Each person arrives with their own prediction, and participants are always delighted to discover a new side to their city.
 
Guests have so wholeheartedly adopted the concept, that we find ourselves retelling stories about one-time encounters that turned into true friendships, about couples who met for the first time—not to mention four “live” marriage proposals and one on-site wedding!
 
4 - What is your proudest or most memorable Dîner en Blanc moment?
 
I know that members always recall the 2012 edition, where we gathered around the Fontaine de Tourny in front of Parliament. It’s the most talked about event.
 
Personally, the first edition in 2011 at the Gare du Palais will always be dear to my heart. That was my first experience co-hosting with Sandrine Chenel, my accomplice for the first 2 soirées. We didn’t really know what we were getting into; 15 minutes before the bus arrived, it downpoured. It was windy and raining… We even wondered whether we should cancel. But as soon as the first bus arrived, everything stopped, warm weather set in, and excitement rose. Nature gave us a chance, and the evening was perfect in all ways.
 
I also cannot help but mention the last edition, at the Port de Québec. The view of the city and the Château Frontenac, with the city of Lévis and L’Île d’Orléans in the background, the river at our sides, and boats coming to greet us, brought the festivities to another level.
 
Have a look at the Dîner en Blanc de Québec 2015 - Official Video from last year’s gorgeous feast in the Port of Québec.

5 - How has Dîner en Blanc evolved in your city over the past five years? Where do you see it heading in the future?
 
Experience has shown us that guests love to be seen. They like to create a buzz and intrigue curious passersby. The edition at Domaine Cataraqui, an enclosed park, made for a very photogenic event, but less people came to watch the festivities. Guests were a little disappointed by the lack of visibility. The message stuck: “We’re beautiful, we’ve put in a lot of effort, and we want to be seen.” We learned our lesson.
 
Moreover, we realize that 2000 people is a comfortable number of guests, taking into account the number of different sites that could receive us with such capacity demands in the future.
 
If you could go to any Dîner en Blanc in the world, which city would you visit?
 
I’m torn between New York (because of how close it is) and Sydney (because of how far it is).
 
André Auger achieved his goal in gifting Le Dîner en Blanc to his city, just as he wanted… And with so much experience, and a whole team of hosts and volunteers, Quebec City has proven themselves experts when it comes to hosting this elegant picnic.  
 
After having such success in his own city, André partnered with Serge Roux to produce this fabulous event in Sherbrooke. Le Dîner en Blanc de Sherbrooke is getting ready to celebrate their 3rd edition, which will take place Thursday, July 7th. If you’re in the area and want to live the Dîner en Blanc experience, subscribe to sherbrooke.dinerenblanc.info/inscription.
 
For all the updates, follow Le Dîner en Blanc de Québec on:
 Dîner en Blanc – Québec   @DinerenblancQC        diner_en_blanc_Québec

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