Jun 27, 2011
Festivities include “Storming of the Bastille" at the walls of Eastern State Penitentiary as 2,000 Tastykakes are flung from the prison’s towers
The annual Fairmount Bastille Day Festival has become one of Philadelphia’s premier summer events, attracting thousands of visitors to the massive shadow of Eastern State Penitentiary’s wall along Fairmount Avenue. This year’s celebration will take place on July 14-17, 2011 with a full weekend of activities.
The festivities begin on Thursday evening with the French Fling Bar Crawl, and continue on Friday evening with Fairmount Goes French movie screenings and dinner specials. Saturday brings Bastille Day to Fairmount Avenue, featuring the storming of the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary) and a French-themed street festival. The weekend culminates on Sunday with French Champagne Brunch at participating restaurants. More information on the activities and a full schedule of events can be found at EasternState.org/bastille.
Bastille Day Festival and Storming of the Bastille
The Bastille Day Festival on Saturday, July 16 will begin at 2:00 p.m. in front of Eastern State Penitentiary at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue. In addition to French fare and kids’ activities, the event will feature a pet parade and decorated bike parade at 2:00 p.m., fashion show at 2:30 p.m., and costume contest at 5:15 p.m. Special tents will include a “How Do I Say it in French?” tent from L’Ecole Francaise, DiBruno Bros.’ French Cheese Tips tent, French Wine Tips tent from Fare, and French Twists and Updos by Snip Salon. There will be live music from Philly Musette, as well as Bearded Ladies Edith Piaf Cabaret Street Performers, Peek A Boo Revue Can Can Dancers, and other live entertainment.
Guests can enjoy French fare from neighborhood restaurants, including The Belgian Cafe, Fare, Jack’s Firehouse, Luigi’s Pizza Fresca, Mugshots Coffeehouse, Rembrandt’s, DiBruno Bros., and Urban Saloon. Items will include baguette sandwiches, pain au chocolat, croissants, French pastry, Kronenbourg 1664 Beer, Mouton Cadet wine, and champagne specials.
The Street Festival will reach its climax at 5:30 p.m., when dozens of French revolutionaries, armed with muskets and cannon, singing “La Marseillaise,” will storm the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary, which has an historic connection to the French Bastille). They will capture Marie Antoinette (portrayed by Terry McNally, co-owner of London Grill) and, ignoring her mocking cries of “Let them eat Tastykake!” drag her to a real, functioning guillotine, built for the occasion as 2,000 Tastykakes are flung from the prison’s towers.
The Bastille Day Festival is free and open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to dress as French peasants or royalty.
The celebration includes tours of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (standard admission rates) between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The penitentiary will stay open for special Twilight Tours from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Meant to be a quick introduction to the penitentiary and its history, these abbreviated tours last 20 minutes and are available for $10 (adults) and $5 (seniors, students, and kids ages 7-12). The festival continues into the night with “After Parties” throughout the neighborhood of Fairmount. Area restaurants and businesses celebrate the storming with revolutionary-themed food and drink specials.
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. Participating restaurants include The Belgian Café, Bishop’s Collar, Bridgid’s Bar & Restaurant, Fare, Jack’s Firehouse, London Grill, Rembrandt’s Restaurant, and Urban Saloon.
Fairmount Goes French Friday
Fairmount restaurants and bars will offer French menu items and beer specials on Friday, July 15th. London Grill will feature a French Trivia Wheel with the chance to win dinners for two, bottles of wine, and more great prizes. The evening will also feature French-themed movie screenings from the Friends of Eastern State Penitentiary and Mugshots Coffeehouse. This year’s films will be Ratatouille at 7:00 p.m. (shown at Mugshots) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 8:00 p.m. (shown on the lawn behind Eastern State Penitentiary).
French Champagne Brunch
The weekend concludes on Sunday, July 17th with a French Champagne Brunch at participating Fairmount restaurants. Specials include crepes and beignets as well as traditional Sunday Brunch specials and Make Your Own Bloody Mary Bar at London Grill.
Bastille Day History
On July 14, 1789, revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, a prison that represented the absolute power of Louis XVI, marking the beginning of the French Revolution. Bastille Day is currently a French national holiday that is celebrated in grand style every year. It commemorates the birth of the Republic and symbolizes the beginning of a new form of government in France.
Bastille Day Event Participants
Barnes Foundation, Bearded Ladies Edith Piaf Cabaret, The Belgian Café, Bishop's Collar, Book Haven, Bridgid's Bar & Restaurant, DiBruno Bros., Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Fairmount Art Center, Fairmount Bicycles, Fairmount CDC, Fairmount Pet Shoppe, Fare, Jack's Firehouse, Kronenbourg 1664, L'Ecole Francaise, Liberti Church, London Grill, Luigi's Pizza Fresca, Mouton Cadet, Mugshots, Musette, Peek A Boo Revue, Philadelphia Weekly, Rembrandt's, Snip Salon, Studio Incamminati En Plein Aire, Tastykake, Trio, Urban Saloon, The Wardrobe Boutique
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.
Tours today include the cellblocks, solitary punishment cells, Al Capone’s Cell, and Death Row. A critically acclaimed series of artist installations is free with admission. Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students and children ages 7-12 (not recommended for children under the age of seven). The penitentiary is open every day, year round. For more information and schedules, please call (215) 236-3300 or visit www.easternstate.org.