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Harvest Noir 2011 Picnickers - photo courtesy fieldtripp on Flickr.

Harvest Noir: Ottawa’s top-secret picnic party is back!

By Karen Diepeveen on July 9, 2012

If you missed last year’s top-secret picnic (a secret kept by over 700 people), you’re in luck. Harvest Noir is returning again this year, and promises to be even bigger and better.

But let’s start with the basics: yes, it’s a secret picnic. And yes, it’s a black tie affair. Yes, you bring your own food. And no, you don’t know where it will be held. At least not until a few hours before the picnic is set to start. You and your fellow picnickers prepare all of your food ahead of time, pull together creative centrepieces, and wait for the email stating where to show up – then descend with hundreds of others to eat local harvest fare and have a rockin’ dance party.

Set for September 30, co-organizer Greg Searle is preparing to welcome 1400 picnickers to the event this year. And while last year’s dinner took place at the picturesque Museum of Civilization, this year’s event will be much more public – somewhere central in downtown Ottawa, where the outfits and food of participants can attract the stares and wonderment of passersby.

Apartment613 sat down with Greg and chatted about secrets, picnics, local fare and even a bicycle flash mob.

Get your tickets now, though – you or a friend will have to be a head of table, and then coordinate finding eight of your friends to join in the foodie fun. Those 1400 tickets are going fast!

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  • Keej

    Most of the people that I know who went to Harvest Noir (myself included) were pretty disappointed. We felt like we paid a considerable enough amount of money to essentially attend a “bring-your-own-everything-except-booze” party. The entertainers were barely noticed and, when they *were* noticed, the entertainment they provided was of questionable value. The parade simply consisted of everyone in attendance walking into the venue at the designated time. The DJ (DJs?) started playing some sort of EDM to which the crowd did not react favourably and then wound up just taking requests from the crowd and playing whichever songs they could download from the internet. The result was that the music was all over the place and the party felt more like the after-meal dance at a corporate event where the rental DJ is trying his best to please everyone; a pinch of top 40, a dash of wedding oldies, a country line-dancing song for good measure, etc. The organizer’s speech was of such an odd tone that it made us question whether or not the charitable organization behind the event was legitimate. (I’m not saying that it’s not legitimate; I’m saying that’s how his speech made us feel.) A lot of people attended and made the best of the situatuation but we felt like we got ripped off. Most of us felt that, apart from getting the Museum of Civilization as a venue, the entire event could have been done for free in a flashmob / rave style and the charity could have simply collected donations. We won’t be going to subsequent Harvest Noir events. Just a fair warning for the curious.

  • KL

    After last year’s event the Citizen wrote “Good-bye, staid Ottawa: Harvest Noir surpasses all expectations”. It’s definitely for adventurous people!

    I had more fun at Harvest Noir than at any other event last year. Loved the audience participation! 2011 was the first time a chic picnic was put on in Ottawa, I’m planning to go this year and expect it to be even better.

  • James

    Went last year – it was excellent.

  • Leigh

    Great article, was there last year and we had such a fabulous time! I especially loved dancing in the museum and seeing everyone dressed up in black all eating together outside, it felt a bit surreal.

    I’d never been to anything like this before, and certainly nothing so swanky and fun locally, so I’m pretty excited about the second installment and our table is ready to go! woot woot

  • Jay

    It’s very simple to look into it…it states that

    “After paying the costs of the event, 100% of proceeds will go to BioRegional North America, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate the development of the greenest sustainable communities across Canada and the United States.”

    Bio Regional Executive Director is Greg Searle; the same person organizing the Harvest Noir event. web site is also registered to Greg Searle