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The Best Headwear at the Central Park Hat Lunch

The Best Headwear at the Central Park Hat Lunch

They waltzed down the steps of Central Park’s Vanderbilt Gate on Fifth Avenue on Wednesday morning like Marilyn Monroe in her bejeweled performance of the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

But here, there were many more women, each of them escorted by a waiter in a white coat, seemingly floating down the staircase and into the Conservatory Garden. And instead of diamonds, they wore hats or fascinators or headbands made of feathers, Legos and artificial flowers. One was even fashioned as a swan.

The procession that entered the 42nd annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon at the Conservatory Garden — or the hat luncheon, as it is colloquially known — donned frocks in shades of pink, orange, lavender, ice blue and Kelly green — enough colors to rival the eggs in an Easter basket.

The luncheon is an annual occasion that serves as a trumpet song of spring in the city and a fund-raiser for the Central Park Conservancy. This year, over 1,000 guests, including philanthropists, designers, members of the Central Park Conservancy and overall lovers of Central Park, raised over $4.6 million for the preservation and upkeep of Manhattan’s green jewel.

“It’s a big celebration for Central Park and the people who really love and care for the park,” said Betsy Smith, the president and chief executive of the Central Park Conservancy.

This year’s event, which honored Diane Schaub, the Central Park Conservancy’s curator of gardens, along with the Conservancy’s garden staff, took nine months to plan, according to Ms. Smith. It is the biggest fund-raiser for the park, and the money raised will go toward operating costs for the park, including landscaping and park maintenance.

Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who arrived after the procession in a navy blue jacket and hunter green tie, is a longtime supporter of the park and a former board member.

“They’ve got to raise money all the time; Central Park doesn’t get enough money,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

“When she asks for money, you just write a check,” he said, looking toward Ms. Smith as she walked by him to take her seat beside his. “Just say yes. I learned that many years ago from her.”

While some attendees began to take their seats and enjoy their lunch of poached salmon with a kohlrabi and avocado salad, the gowned and the heeled made the rounds.

Abby Phillip, the CNN anchor, said this was her first time at the luncheon.

“I just moved to New York, so it’s quite the welcome to the city,” said Ms. Phillip, who was wearing a lavender dress from Amsale and a light gray fascinator.

“When I lived in New York years ago, I would just, like, ride from Harlem all the way down to Central Park South,” she said. “It’s like therapy, honestly, just to have this smack dab in the middle of the city. It is so beautiful.”

Ms. Phillip was invited by her friend Mireyah D’Angelo, who was wearing a large fascinator from Eve Bari with shiny black feathers.

For Ms. D’Angelo, a banker with JP Morgan Chase, supporting the park means protecting the memories of her daughter’s childhood.

“I have a 25-year-old-daughter who we basically raised her in New York using the park,” said Ms. D’Angelo, who was wearing a white linen dress. “This is the only way to ensure that this oasis that we have in the city stays beautiful for absolutely everyone in the city.”

While there were no children in attendance, Ylena Feuerman, a jeweler from Kyiv, found a way for her 12-year-old daughter, Mia, to contribute. Ms. Feuerman’s headpiece was made of Legos that clicked together to form flowers. The headpiece was a project she embarked on with her daughter and her nanny, Luda a year ago.

“She painted it and put Legos everywhere,” said Ms. Feuerman, whose sky blue dress featured 3-D accents that were also made of Legos. “This is a message to Ukrainian kids to be safe and be happy.”

For others, like Katherine Gage Boulud, the restaurateur and wife of the chef Daniel Boulud, the park functions as an heirloom.

“So many of us are mothers and daughters of people who have supported the park for a long time, and we bring our children here,” she said. She was wearing a Julia Clancey headband with fuchsia orchids attached to it and a pink beaded miniskirt suit set by Carolina Herrera.

“This has taken on an even greater importance since Covid, when everybody realized just how much we depend on the park,” Ms. Gage Boulud said.

It is the democratization of the green space that is important to Kathleen Tait, a philanthropist who has attended the luncheon for 20 years.

“People have said for a long time that this was the backyard of New York City, but it was not true for my dad growing up here, it was not true for us,” said Ms. Tait, who wore a fascinator with gardenias in the front and a floating dragonfly in the back. “I want to help push this forward.”

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