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Bastille Day 2018: The Farewell Tour

Bastille Day 2018: The Farewell Tour

June 7, 2018

This summer we, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, will bring Philadelphia its 24th and final Bastille Day celebration with a monumental farewell tour, to be held Saturday, July 14, 2018. As sad as we are to see it go, Bastille Day is extremely resource-intensive, and we have a bold new vision for our organization that requires we make some tough sacrifices.

For one final time, the Bearded Ladies will perform a drag cabaret reenactment of the French Revolution, and 2,000 butterscotch krimpets will rain down from the penitentiary’s towers as Marie Antoinette delivers her infamous line: “Let them eat Tastykake!”

Over the years, Bastille Day has morphed and shifted into the over-the-top, sharp, silly musical performance that Philadelphians know and love today. Our first Bastille Day took place in 1995. The main event that year was under a tent in the abandoned lot to the west of the penitentiary, and attendees witnessed a short theatrical performance about the nature of liberty.

Some aspects of our modern, beloved event were already in place. Terry McNally (co-owner of London Grill and Paris Wine Bar) played the Queen, and has reprised her role every year since. The Tastykake-throwing tradition was born and quickly took hold.

And some things have changed. The crowds have swelled into the thousands, the Bearded Ladies have taken the show to the next level with their masterful writing and performance, and Eastern State Penitentiary has grown far beyond expectations.

In 1995, the year of the inaugural Bastille Day, we welcomed 17,000 visitors to Eastern State for historic prison tours. In 2017, we saw more than 250,000. We have firmly established a reputation as a destination for Philadelphians, leisure tourists, school students and their teachers to discover stories of the men and women who lived and worked behind the prison walls, and to reflect on some of the most critical issues facing our nation today.

We recently rewrote our mission statement to embody a new vision, and created an ambitious Strategic Plan for the infrastructure and visitor amenities necessary to realize this site’s extraordinary potential. Now we are excited to celebrate the French Revolution one more time before turning our focus to these new and exhilarating endeavors. You can learn more about the road ahead here.

Bastille Day 2018: The Farewell Tour is the perfect opportunity to give Marie Antoinette a proper, spectacular sendoff. Guests can expect a show that is, as the Beards say, “both intellectual and accessible, entertaining and meaningful, stupid good and just plain stupid.” As always, it’s free and open to the public. We hope to see you there.

Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!


Bastille Day is produced by Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, written and performed by Bearded Ladies Cabaret, and sponsored by Tastykake, Kronenbourg 1664, and Univest Bank.


2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner