Move aside, glamping—There’s a new “nature meets lavish” experience that’s taking New England by storm! Luxury picnics are all the rage, and here’s how you can take part in delicious, designer dining.
With summer in full swing and a general newfound appreciation of the great outdoors, unique activities are easy to come by. To learn more about the new twist on an old classic, I caught up with two picnic planners whose success comes from attention to detail.
On a balmy day in Hartford, Connecticut, I met Mary Leigh Enders, owner at M.L. Enders Design, LLC and creator of The Picnic Project. Laying eyes on her beautiful set up, The Couples Classic, I took in as much detail as I could as she told me about her relatively new small business. Watching her parents build and maintain two successful small businesses combined with the need for activities during and after a pandemic inspired her to think outside the box, or basket as it were.
The Picnic Project aims to plan small gatherings in style, on a budget, and with a local feel unlike any other. Enders personally selects every aspect of what goes into each set up. The dishware, some collected over years and some newly acquired, is all secondhand, vintage, and/or selected from thrift stores. There is an undeniable attention to aesthetics within each setup.
When discussing what makes her business stand out from others, Enders brings up her local small business partners. She feels that the pandemic has brought out some incredible talents in many dedicated people, and knows the value of utilizing small businesses as opposed to corporate partners.
“That’s why it’s called ‘The Picnic Project’, because it’s more than just setting up a picnic in someone’s backyard. It’s about highlighting all these people,” she said.
Slicing the stem of a red rose and placing it skillfully into a vintage vase, she adds that there are so many people like her who just recently found and started these passion projects, and she’s happy to feature other high-quality crafters within her own project.
Whether a simple setup featuring floral displays from Southington’s Petals and Plates or an elaborate experience featuring a rented vintage Volkswagen bus from Fizzy Memories, collaboration with local vendors is guaranteed to tie together the aesthetic.
Heading north to Windsor, CT I was greeted by a breathtaking view of the sun hanging low in the sky over Stroh Park Pond where I met my next picnic planner. Daneisha Thomas, owner of LuxCTpicnics, was inspired by the lifestyles she would see during her time in other parts of the country.
When living in Miami and Georgia, she saw many exciting attractions and activities for young women to partake in, and noticed Connecticut was lacking in the picnic department.
“Even with the restrictions, people still want to go outside, people want to enjoy each other. We’re getting back to the basics where we’re communicating with each other,” she said.
Looking down at the silky satin setup, I noticed we had both effortlessly removed our shoes and settled right into the earth-tone pillows. As if on cue, Thomas added that her picnic setups inspire an intimate luxury experience. She also honed in on her attention to working with budgets in order to “give everyone a chance to experience” a luxury picnic.
She mentions her “Picnicing on a Budget” option for those who just want to add a little class to their picnic experience, and emphasizes the importance of knowing your clientele, and getting crafty to create a beautiful experience.
Francesca Fontánez is a Meriden-based journalist, educator, and creative. A graduate of both the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden writing about the city she loves. When she's not helping out in the English department at Maloney High School, she's either exploring the Eastern seaboard for her lifestyle blog (@ eastsidevibes on Instagram) or working on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach. Email Francesca at firstname.lastname@example.org with tips on what you want to read about next, or just to say hi!