The 2012 Bastille Day Festival Returns To Eastern State Penitentiary Saturday, July 14 With A Street Fair, Real Guillotine, 3,000 Tastykakes Flung From The Tower Walls And Brand New Theatrical Cabaret

Whether you’re a revolutionary or a royalist, there’s something for you during Eastern State Pententiary's bombastic Bastille Day Festival. (Photo by Darryl W. Moran)

One of the most iconic traditions of summer in Philadelphia is Eastern State Penitentiary’s Bastille Day Festival, returning for its 18th year on Saturday, July 14.

We’re giving you a little advance notice because that’s one weekend in particular you’ll want to be in town. Plue, the festival has been revamped with a few awesome new features this year.

Check out a few highlights of Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary, below:

Brand new for 2012: Bearded Ladies Cabaret

Eastern State Penitentiary is teaming up with The Bearded Ladies, Philadelphia’s experimental cabaret troupe, to present the entire French Revolution in a brand new two-hour spectacle of song, dance and beheading for this year’s festival. The performance, 4:30 p.m., will be emceed by Edith Piaf, and will include appearances by Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Benjamin Franklin and a life-size French Baguette.

Street admission is free, but for those interested in a better (French Bourgeoisie) view, exclusive VIP seating is available for a donation fee. VIP tickets include table seating, beer and refreshments, heckling from the lower classes and goodie bags. Tickets are available online only beginning July 1.

Check out this instructional video courtesy of the Ladies for a how-to on revolutionary dancing.

Storming of the Bastille

The annual storming of the Bastille is the festival’s main act, during which dozens of French revolutionaries, armed with muskets and cannons and singing “La Marseilles,” storm the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State) 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 3,000 Butterscotch Krimpets from the prison’ medieval towers. The storming takes place at 5:30 p.m.

The tongue-in-cheek Bastille Day reenactment, complete with a Tastykake hailstorm and Terry McNally impersonating Marie Antoinette, is a Philadelphia summer tradition. (Photo by Darryl W. Moran)

Street Fair

Part of the day’s fun includes the closure of Fairmount Avenue outside the Penitentiary, on which will be staked out food, activities and vendors galore.

Some new additions to the event this year include confetti cannons, stilt walkers, a cardboard horse and a catwalk so long it divides Fairmount Avenue.

Bastille Day After Parties

Following the beheading, surrounding Fairmount restaurants come alive with French-themed entertainment and food and drink specials, and the Penitentiary will reopen for rare twilight tours at a discounted admission price ($10 Adults, $5 Students, Seniors and Kids).

Stay tuned for even more details on this year’s Bastille Day Festival. For now, mark your calendar. And start planning out your costume with ESP’s handy guide.

Bastille Day Festival 2012
Where: Eastern State Penitentiary, 2020 Fairmount Avenue
When: Saturday, July 14, 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
More info:

[Photos by Darryl W. Moran]



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