The festival, dubbed Bastille Day 2018: The Farewell Tour for its 24th and final year, commemorates the storming of the Bastille by French revolutionaries with a comical reenactment filled with song, dance and Tastykakes for the masses.
BASTILLE DAY FESTIVAL FAST FACTS
- Eastern State Penitentiary’s 24th and final Bastille Day celebration takes place on Saturday, July 14.
- The main event is the hour-long Bearded Ladies Cabaret show, which starts at 5:30 p.m.
- After the performance, attendees can score French-themed food and drink specials at select Fairmount restaurants.
- This event is free and open to the public.
The fest’s final year comes as the Eastern State Penitentiary organization moves to allocate more resources toward the implementation of an impactful new vision.
The Bastille Day Festival takes place in front of the Eastern State Penitentiary on Fairmount Avenue between N. 22nd Street and Corinthian Avenue in Philly’s Fairmount neighborhood.
Attendees can tour the historic former prison from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the day of the event for standard admission. The free hour-long performance then starts at 5:30 p.m. on a stage located on Fairmount Avenue.
Bastille Day Cabaret Show
The Bearded Ladies, Philly’s popular experimental cabaret troupe, performs a free show outside the Eastern State Penitentiary at 5:30 p.m.
The theatrical spectacle covers the entire French Revolution in an hour, complete with singing, dancing, a “beheading” and a mock-storming of the “Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary). Attendees can expect a few surprises, too, during this farewell performance.
The cheeky reenactment is hosted by the famous French songstress and cabaret performer Edith Piaf — portrayed by The Bearded Ladies’ artistic director John Jarboe — and incorporates topical commentary on the present political climate into the script.
This year’s rousing retelling touches on Philly public school education, racial injustice, Mark Zuckerberg, the border wall and firewalls.
Supporting characters this year include Joan of Arc, Benjamin Franklin, Vladimir Putin and a six-foot-tall French baguette.
The drama comes to a head as dozens of performers portraying French revolutionaries barrel toward the walls of the “Bastille” to capture Marie Antoinette (played by Terry McNally, co-owner of nearby Fairmount restaurants London Grill and Paris Wine Bar). Her iconic “Let them eat Tastykake!” proclamation sends more than 2,000 Tastykakes catapulting from the prison’s towers toward the crowd below.
After the performance, attendees can migrate to Urban Saloon or London Grill for French-themed food and drink specials.
Other Bastille Day Celebrations
A handful of Philly restaurants also have Bastille Day bashes planned.
Ahead of the holiday, London Grill, Urban Saloon, Bishop’s Collar and more restaurants and bars in Fairmount offer Kronenbourg specials on Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. for the French Fling Bar Crawl to commemorate Bastille Day. The crawl is free to attend, but guests who RSVP and check in at Urban Saloon get a complimentary Kronenbourg 1664 or Kronenbourg Blanc.
Parc, the French bistro located in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, celebrates its 10th anniversary and Bastille Day on Saturday with a festival outside of the restaurant on 18th Street. Guests can enjoy alfresco dining, a photo booth, face painting and a cookie-decorating station helmed by pastry chef Abigail Dahan .
Royal Boucherie is throwing a “Let them eat cake”-themed costume party 4-7 p.m. on Saturday in Philadelphia’s Historic District. French-themed costumes are encouraged and the best-dressed attendees get prizes. There’s also a Bastille Week grand-prize drawing and live jazz performed by Victor North Quartet. Guests receive a complimentary shortcake with berries and cream.
Over at Bistrot La Minette in Queen Village, guests can indulge in a four-course menu of fine French fare for $40 per person from noon until 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and from noon until 9 p.m. on Sunday.
In Bella Vista, the Good King Tavern hosts its annual Bastille Day block party on Saturday, featuring flavorful French-inspired bites, a variety of drink options, live music, lawn games and more. Neighbors Nomad Pizza and Hale & True Cider Co. join in the festivities this year. During the block party, the South Street Headhouse District shuts down Kater Street between 6th and 8th streets and 7th Street between South and Bainbridge streets.
Revelers, don’t miss the last chance to celebrate Bastille Day one final time at Eastern State Penitentiary — and good luck snagging a flying Butterscotch Krimpet!