The Annual Bastille Day Celebration Returns To Eastern State This Weekend; Fairmount To Celebrate With 4 Days Of Festivities, July 14-17

Whether you’re a revolutionary or a royalist, there’s something for you in this four-day celebration of all things French, wrapping up with the tongue-in-cheek Bastille Day reenactment at the Eastern State Penitentiary, complete with functional guillotine.
(Photo courtesy Eastern State Penitentiary)

The annual Bastille Day Festival returns to Fairmount July 14-17 with four days of French-themed festivities, including movie screenings, drink and dinner specials, a giant street festival and 2,000 Tastykakes flung from the Eastern State Penitentiary towers in a grand reenactment of the Storming of the Bastille.

The festivities leading up to the July 16 street festival and main event kick off on Thursday, July 14 with a Fairmount French Fling Bar Crawl. Here are the highlights of the four-day fete:

Thursday, July 14 – Fairmount French Fling Bar Crawl

• The Fairmount French Fling Bar Crawl kicks off the weekend on Thursday, July 14th at 7:00 p.m. with Kronenbourg 1664 beer specials and Mouton Cadet wine specials at local bars and restaurants. Locations include The Belgian Café, Bishop’s Collar, Bridgid’s, Fare, Jack’s Firehouse, London Grill, Rembrandt’s and Urban Saloon.

Friday, July 15 – Fairmount Goes French Friday

Fairmount restaurants and bars will offer French menu items and beer specials on Friday, July 15th. The evening will also feature French-themed movie screenings from the Friends of Eastern State Penitentiary and Mugshots Coffeehouse.

Art After 5 Bastille Day Party featuring Beau Django at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

• Mugshots Family Film night featuring Ratatouille!, including a free mini-cupcake with a French soda purchase.

• Trio, The Belgian Café, Jack’s Firehouse, Fare and Bridgids will feature French-inspired menu items and drinks all week and weekend long.

• London Grill hosts Fairmount Goes French Wheel of Fortune Night at 7 p.m. with France-centric trivia at the bar and fun prizes.

• A movie screening under the stars!! Cinema Francaise from Friends of Eastern State Penitentiary Park: watch Pepe Le Pew cartoons at 8 p.m. and Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame at 8:30 p.m. (free!) on the lawn behind the penitentiary.

Saturday, July 16 – BASTILLE DAY STREET FESTIVAL

Bastille Day Street Festival: 2-6 p.m., Eastern State Penitentiary, FREE.

This is the main event, the be-all, end-all of the Bastille Day celebrations.

Entertainment: Take tours ($12) of the penitentiary, watch a pet parade, bike parade, French fashion show, Peek A Boo Revue Can Can Dancers and costume contest, all leading up to the Storming of the Bastille Reenactment at 5:20 p.m. (see below).

Activities: There will be caricaturists, face painting, make and take crafts with the Fairmount Art Center, and a French Twists and Updos tent by Snip Salon.

Food & Drink: Guests can enjoy French fare from neighborhood restaurants, including The Belgian Cafe, Fare, Jack’s Firehouse, Luigi’s Pizza Fresca, Mugshots Coffeehouse, and Rembrandt’s, while DiBruno Bros. will be on hand with french cheeses. Kronenbourg 1664 Beer, Mouton Cadet wine, and champagne will also be flowing.

Storming of the Bastille: The annual storming of the Bastille is the festival’s main act each year, when dozens of French revolutionaries, armed with muskets and cannons, and singing “La Marseilles,” storm the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary) and drag “Marie Antoinette” (Terry McNally, co-owner of Fairmount‘s London Grill) to a real, functioning guillotine built for the occasion.

Position yourself below the raining-down of 2,000 Butterscotch Krimpets from the prison’ medieval towers. The storming takes place at 5:30.

Bastille Day After Parties

After the storming, the party spills into the Fairmount neighborhood, as restaurants and bars host great French dinner specials and alfresco celebrations throughout the evening. The epicenter of the after parties is London Grill, but the whole neighborhood participates giving you plenty of places to party like its 1789!

Also after the street fair, stick around for a Twilight Tour of Eastern State Penitentiary, offered from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 17 – French Champagne Brunch

• French Champagne Brunch at participating Fairmount establishment: The Belgian Café will be serving up Belgian/French inspired fare, London Grill will feature a make your own Bloody “Marie” Bar, Trio will offer French-themed brunch with complimentary Mimosa or Framboise and Bridgid’s will host a BBQ from 2-6 p.m.

The full festival schedule is available online.

Bastille Day Festival
Where: Eastern State Penitentiary, 2020 Fairmount Avenue
When: Saturday, July 16, Starting at 2 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info: www.easternstate.org

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