On Governors Island, They Set the Clock Back 90 Years

A couple dances to the 1920s-era sounds of Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra.

Aug. 18, 2015



The 1920s came roaring back, once again, to Governors Island.

It was the 10th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, held last weekend, and off the ferry they landed, the women in their flapper dresses and pearls, the men in straw boaters and newsboy caps, bow ties and suspenders. Over the two days, some 20,000 partiers basked in the period milieu. In true Charleston style, they stepped to the authentic 1920s sounds of Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra. They picnicked beneath parasols, posed on the running boards of roadsters and shopped for vintage hats, dresses and accessories.  

“I’ve been obsessed with ‘The Great Gatsby’ since college, obsessed with the era,” said Rezma Shrestha, a graduate student in molecular biology.  “It’s the flashiness of that time, and the attitude of, ‘Let’s just have fun and not worry about the future.’ You just forget everything.”

The Jazz Age Lawn Party began in 2005 as a gathering of 50 aficionados of the era. Three years later Arenella took it over as producer and the party has blossomed into one of the city’s most popular events.

And it was easy to see why. Even beneath a blazing summer sun, the Jazz Age crowd coolly took in the scene, relaxed and smiling. “It’s like everyone’s taken a happy pill,” said Katie Calcaterra, who was on hand to sell her Mary Jane Lane suspenders.

“You get to listen to some great music and dress up,” said former sax player Irfan Nadeem, his thumbs in a pair of suspenders of his own. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”