The party king
Slicked-back hair, a fine moustache and a bow tie: Michael Arenella’s look is unmistakable. In his hand, a baton or trumpet, and following his lead, the Dreamland Orchestra. Besides playing at the festival, the orchestra plays in New York all year round, at venues like The Red Room and The Clover Club.
The party is held at Colonels Row, Governors Island, south of Manhattan, only reachable by ferry. For two days, the island is ‘transported’ to the swinging 20s. Fancy dress, dance contests (swing and Charleston), popular cocktails from the decade and a live jazz orchestra make this journey through time all the more credible. Leading the Dreamland Orchestra is Michael Arenella. Musician, entrepreneur and true jazz devotee, he is the founder of the festival. It all began when this son of two artists organised a small party for friends in 2005. To begin with, just 100 people attended. At more recent editions, about 10,000 entry tickets have been sold for each weekend, making Jazz Age Lawn Party a true highlight of the summer calendar in the Big Apple. There are no admission rules: everyone is welcome.
And while it is not compulsory, visitors are recommended to dress in the styles of the 20s – “one of the most colorful and formative epochs in American history,” according to the organisers. It’s an era that, nearly a century later, continues to be revered and imitated. At Governors Island, the music is played on old gramophones, photographs have a vintage look and children play the same games as their great grandparents did at Kidland. A collection of vintage cars is also transported to the island to be exhibited during the festival.