All that jazz: Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party takes over Governors Island

Valentina Sasieta, at right, and friends Katherine and Ricki enjoyed an elegant picnic at the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island on Aug. 25.
Photos by Erica Price

BY COLIN MIXSON

Thousands of Roaring ’20s cosplayers turned out for the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island beginning Aug. 25 — a two-day, prohibition-era blowout where bootlegging is the order of the day, according to the party’s chief jitterbug.

Photo by Erica Price
Jazz Age Lawn Party Dance Director Roddy Caravella instructed revelers on the Charleston and Peabody styles of dance.

“You’re not supposed to bring in alcohol, but dollars to donuts, people figure out how to smuggle it in,” said Roddy Caravella, Dance Director of the Jazz Age Lawn Party, who teaches newcomers how to do the Charleston and other period moves.

Jazz Age Lawn Party is one of the country’s largest ’20s-themed get-togethers, and brings thousands of Gatsby groupies and retro dandies out to the island park for a two-day bash featuring old-timey music, dancing, and dapper duds.

At the beginning of each day, Caravella leads revelers in a 45-minute tutorial of the jig of the day — either the Charleston, a spirited, youthful style featuring fancy footwork, or the Peabody, a more elegant ballroom dance that incorporates improvisational elements essential to the musical genre that spawned it.

And once class is out, the party starts, as bands including Jazz Age Lawn Party founder Michael Arenella’s Dreamland Orchestra take the stage and set the tune for a party that appears ripped straight out of time.

That’s because patron’s don’t just act the part of sly bootleggers, they dress the part too, sporting straw boater hats, white linen slacks, and chic flapper dresses evocative of a more dapper age, according to one of the event’s official clothiers.

Photo by Erica Price
Dreamland Orchestra leader and Jazz Age Lawn Party founder Michael Arenella kept the joint jumping.

“To get that many people together all dressed up, there’s nothing like it,” said Andrew Yamato, a custom clothier with Alan Flusser Custom. “It’s always a great time.”

Photo by Erica Price
Fabulous flapper Adrienne Weider, a dancer with Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers, was dressed to the nines.

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