Time for Some Swing: The Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island (2012)

Yes! I did it! AGAIN!

It has been exactly a week since the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island. Exactly a week when people dressed up like there was no tomorrow and threw costumes on from over 90 years ago. The Jazz Festival only happens twice a year here in New York. First, there is the prelude in June. Right around the official summer start. Then there is the event in the middle of August, as a sad wave of goodbye to the season and all the dances it has brought. Music, laughs, and fun – one could really forget in which era one was on those particular weekends.

While in June I had still been too occupied with my half-a-day photography course (read more here), I swore back then I would make it happen in August. And fair enough, Sunday I was right there, in Bowling Green, standing in a dense line on the ferry to Staten Island. Compared to last year, I had even put more effort into my “extensive” costume of a Jazzage party girl: Curly hair, black dress, red lipstick, white feather boa wrapped around my arm – I was really into it!

Compared to 2011, the line seemed quite overwhelming. It reached all the way out of the ferry station to the Staten Island boat entrance. For all of you who are not familiar with this piece of New York: It’s quite a distance apart and usually you wouldn’t see a queue of this extreme. The fest runs from 11 AM to 5 PM, so I had considered a 12:30 PM departure in the right time frame. Together with countless tourists and other fashion snobs who just wanted to get an eyeful of a vintage dress-up – or so it seemed. I have seldom seen people give so less of an effort to dress up and it was almost an insult to everyone else in line and on the ferry who really had tried hard to look good.

Line to Governor’s Island Ferry
People in Ferry Line

Luckily, it only took half an hour until I finally made it on the boat. I would have thought the wait to be longer but they are good in navigating an additional ferry out to the Island when it comes to unusual circumstances. So just after 1 PM, I was there, heading to the entrance and ready to swing. They had upped the prices from $10 to $15 compared to 2011. They had also extended the lawn area and had a bigger isolated square where all the fun was to partake. More merchants had accumulated on the outskirts of the hype. So had the gawkers who were pointing their hideous telescope lenses into our faces just to get a good shoot without having to pay the cover charge.

But all these things did not distract us happy dwellers from having fun and jumping around in our own little world. I am always attracted to vintage accessories. Last Sunday made no difference. The feathery headbands, the glamorous bracelets, the lush dresses – it was all a pleasure to look at and I even ran into The Odd Twin. They have their store right around the corner from where I live, here in Park Slope, so I’ve become acquainted with their selection a few times in the past. Aranella & His Dreamland Orchestra were ready to roll, hosting their own stand and a cute CD seller, who was wearing a dancegirl’s outfit while promoting the jazz band close to the dance floor. Unfortunately, I had missed out on the pie competition as it seems to take place only on Saturdays. I did however watch the bartenders mix thirsty guests an array of drinks and was quite fascinated at the quantity of high class alcohol and fruits found in one glass of a St. Germain’s cocktail.

The Odd Twin Jewelry Stand
Yummy Cocktails from St. Germain

Of course food cannot be amiss, even though the line was too extensive to even consider getting in it. The lucky ones who got to snag a snack had the choice between hotdogs fries, ice cream and much more. Most parties just brought their own picnic with and that was just as good if not even better smarter. I am still fascinated at how classy people can look when sitting on a picnic blanket in their 20ies outfit. To round it all off an old school photographer brought a half moon out and positioned people on it with a blue background for the 20th century look.

Ice Cream Stand
Classic Picnic
Classy Girl on a picnic blanket

And the best of the best was once again the dance floor: Happy people swinging their legs to fine tunes of Aranella’s Dreamland Orchestra and tender notes of the one or other soloist. Dance groups performing in front of amazed crowds until the dance floor was open to the drunken public. I always find it satisfying to watch good people dance. People who know why they swing their one leg in one direction while pulling up their arm in the other. Oh yes, it’s always a joy – jazz and swing both at a time!

Dance Crowd

At some point in the afternoon we were all called outside to take part in a classic tug o’war. This was the first time I had seen it during the fest so I was eager to watch. First it was the gentlemen’s turn. Then it was the ladies’ turn. And in the very end a wild mix of both genders pulling each other to the ground. I was bummed I couldn’t participate but high heels are not the best choice when dealing with a muddy ground. Kudos to all three groups who managed to delay the result until the bitter end (when no one had strength anymore).

Tug of War between the genders

Of course these events are over way too suddenly. And because they are so rare, it is even sadder to leave them at the end of the day.

I am still in the mood for some more jazz so perhaps next year it will be once again: Get ready for the 1920s! The party usually happens on Saturday and Sunday, the dates have yet to be set. Look around for a June venue and another event in August!

More pictures will be posted throughout today and tomorrow on A Picture Every Day.

Such as:

Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island (I)
Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island (II)
Rocking the Dance Floor

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