When Tim Sprague saw his first Noche en Blanco “friendraiser,” he was stunned. Nearly 1,000 people were dressed in white, celebrating life and the community and, most importantly, raising funds for the Hance Park Conservancy.
Its fourth annual event is Saturday, October 26, at the park, 116 E. Moreland Street, Phoenix. Guests will arrive in creative white cocktail attire to enjoy live entertainment and dancing. The night culminates with the grand carnival parade with samba dancers.
“What makes it unique is people from all diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate life and community,” Sprague says. “There’s no other place here in town where you get 1,500 people celebrating life.
“This is the largest dinner party in Phoenix, and it’s comprised of people of all different shapes, sizes, thoughts, whatever. It’s a really cool diverse deal.”
Guests may purchase a table to decorate and are encouraged to preorder a gourmet picnic for two and bottles of wine from the ticket page. Wine may also be purchased from the bar during the event, which features Huss Brewing, Actions Wine and Conceptually Social.
“There are prizes for the best decorated table, there are prizes for the best dressed in white and, people go all the way out on the extravagance of these tables,” Sprague says.
The night was inspired by a similar “dinner in white” that started in Paris 30 years ago. Hance Park will be decorated with long rows of tables draped in white linen with strings of lights and stars overhead.
All proceeds will benefit the Hance Park Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to the future of Hance Park. The organization has been instrumental in developing the Hance Park Master Plan, which was adopted by the city of Phoenix in 2014. They are actively raising funds to help make this plan a reality.
Noche en Blanco was inspired by a similar tradition in Paris, Sprague says.
“We took the idea of a pop-up celebration that occurred in Paris 30 years ago,” Sprague says. “Last year, we had over 1,250 people at the event. Everybody was dressed in white and they either bring their own picnic dinner or they can buy gourmet picnics at the conservancy or organize for sale at the event.”
Tickets are offered at three levels: $75 for a table for eight; $75 for a gourmet picnic for two; or $30 for a single ticket. Proceeds go toward the Hance Park Conservancy.
“The money will help program the park and work with different activities and things that go in the park itself,” Sprague says. “It’s a really good time to promote the neighborhood and promote the culture that’s around.”
The Hance Park Conservancy was formed in the early ’90s in en effort to save the park from being demolished when the I-10 was build.
“On top of that tunnel (I-10) is a 32-acre park that was dedicated in 1992,” Sprague says. “When the federal government made the decision to put I-10 through the middle of town and that’s where it went, the neighbors went ballistic.”
The two entities compromised and the freeway was constructed under the park. There is still a need for an organization to promote and update the park.
“We formed the Hance Park Conservancy to go out and renovate the park,” Sprague says. “A lot of the grandiose plans that were originally pledged did not occur because of lack of funding. The purpose of the conservancy is to promote the park and the cultural actives around the park.”
Sprague says it’s important to support the park because of the building and population growth. Between 2014 and 2018, the population in the square mile around the park, grew from 5,900 people to 12,000.
“This is a neighborhood that is growing like you won’t believe and we are very much involved in the activities and stuff that goes on in the neighborhood,” Sprague says. “This is our Central Park.”
Sprague is encouraging a sense of community. His passion for Hance Park stems from the impact local parks had on him during his childhood in Oklahoma.
“We did everything in that park every day,” Sprague says. “Because of that relationship, our families knew each other, we would share picnics together and it was just really a social network. That’s something that you can’t duplicate without having that kind of geographic setting.”
Noche en Blanco
Hance Park, 116 E. Moreland Street, Phoenix, hanceparkconservancy.org, 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, October 26, tickets start at $30.