Harvest Noir, Take II: Fiona finds it a great chance for the city to shine, if a bit hectic

Inside the Grand Hall of the Museum of Civilization for Harvest Noir

Fiona Tapp is a British Elementary School Teacher, who has called Ottawa home for the past 5 years. As a native Londoner, she tries to explore and enjoy Ottawa as a tourist, and so far is pretty impressed with this “tiny but brilliant” city!

I often scour the “cool kids'” Facebook pages to scoop out all the fabulous happenings in our little city, and a few weekends ago I happened upon Harvest Noir. (The cool kids are basically just friends of mine that I am in awe of!) So when an opportunity came up to eat a picnic en masse dressed in your finest, followed by a party afterwards, it sounded too good to be true.

Local Tourist Fiona Tapp (right) with friends at Harvest Noir

Slowly the anticipation built: I “liked” their Facebook page, saw articles in the Citizen and even here on LTO. I then decided that it was something I needed to be a part of. After recruiting some equally adventurous ladies, co-ordinating our picnics and outfits, we made our way to the secret location, which turned out to be the Museum of Civilization — one of my favourite places in Ottawa, as it turns out.

I chose an ensemble of a floor-length black velvet dress, jewelled bolero, black fake fur coat and black patent rubber boots — not to mention my peacock-feather fascinator, My friends were dressed beautifully and everyone really took the dress code seriously. It felt almost clandestine, spotting other folks dressed completely in black and following them along a path to our assigned meeting place.

We sat down next to a lovely, humorous trio, who treated our obnoxious cackling and dirty jokes with real aplomb and warm welcome. After setting up our table places with real china, glasses, silverware and some black roses, and unpacking our picnic of portabello mushroom quiche, caramelized sweet potato pasta salad, bread and veggies and a dessert of marshmallows and chocolate fondue, we tucked in, purchasing a rather expensive bottle of wine to accompany our meal.

Huddled up when the rain (briefly) hit Harvest Noir

The weather lurched between compromising chilly but bright, and mocking severe winds that launched hats and candlesticks into the air. A few showers did not deter us picnic diehards and a sea of umbrellas sprang up over the tables. After the picnic portion was over, we were supposed to parade together following the marching band into the museum, however it had become very chilly and some lacklustre organization meant that the band left without most of the guests. It also seemed that sparklers were given out to some guests — but not all, which created a little “ahhh no fair” mentality amongst my group. The loud speakers were not working well, and we couldn’t hear the organizers, which added a bit to the sense of disorganization.

Once inside we warmed up and deposited our coats and picnic baskets and swapped rubber boots for dancing shoes. The party was held in the museum’s Grand Hall and the lights beautifully illuminated the massive totem poles. The space was quite captivating and the excitement was palpable. The music started off very promising with an eclectic mix of Sinatra and the Scissor Sisters, and then we watched a very talented lady spinning around in a giant hula hoop. I had expected for the $42 ticket price to see more performers.

Fiona's dining companions at Harvest Noir

For some reason they had a system where by you had to line up for a ticket and then line up at the bar to exchange your ticket for a drink, this may have been to slow the consumption of alcohol but the clientele was quite a sophisticated bunch and this measure seemed unnecessary, especially as it meant I waited almost 40 minutes for one gin and tonic!

The organizers then took to the stage to congratulate us for all coming out, and a fashion show of sorts took place, as well as prizes being awarded to the best decorated table and the guest who recruited the most people.

After this, the DJ began his set and this is the only time my group really felt the event hit a low point. The same bass continued through multiple seemingly different songs, which gave the feeling of an annoying hammering rather than music and for some unknown reason the vocals were incredibly high pitched. Also the songs were unfamiliar to everyone I asked and only a handful of people danced; it’s a real shame they didn’t keep to music that’s more universally enjoyed. However after an hour or so of this, my group left — so who’s to say the music didn’t improve after our departure. We finished the night with a trip to Bridgehead and a delicious latte.

On reflection, I felt Harvest Noir was a fabulous idea that was executed quite well, the picnic portion of the evening was especially enjoyable, I would return in future years, hopefully some of the teething problems would have been worked through.

One of the goals was to dispute the recent tag that Ottawa was the eighth-worst dressed city in the world, and looking around at the beautiful outfits and creative headdresses, jewellery and hats that myth was challenged in style!

Thanks for your description, Fiona! For some great shots of the night, check out the Ottawa Citizen’s photo gallery.