PHILADELPHIA -- The annual Fairmount Bastille Day celebration 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 10-13 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 the Bastille Day Festival to Fairmount Avenue featuring the storming of the grim walls of "the Bastille," (Eastern State Penitentiary). The weekend culminates on Sunday with a French Champagne Brunch at participating restaurants. More information on the activities and a full schedule of events can be found on the Bastille Day website.
The Bastille Day Festival on Saturday, July 12, will begin at 2 p.m. in front of Eastern State Penitentiary at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue with kids' craft activities, the "Tricycle Tour de France," and a French-themed Pet Parade. Special tents will include French wine tips from Mouton Cadet & Wine School of Philadelphia, a "How Do I Say it in French?" Tent, and French travel, language, recipe and history books from Fairmount's Book Haven. There will be live music entertainment from Musette.
Guests can also enjoy French fare from neighborhood restaurants, including event co-organizer London Grill, The Belgian Cafe, Bishop's Collar, Mug Shots Coffeehouse, Rembrandt's, St. Stephen's Green, Trio and Urban Saloon. Menu items will include crepes, baguette sandwiches, pain au chocolat, croissants, French pastry, Kronenbourg 1664 Beer, French 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 cannons, singing "La Bastille Twinkie Marseillaise," will storm the grim walls of the Eastern State Penitentiary, which has an historic connection to the French Bastille. They will capture Marie Antoinette (played by Terry McNally, 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. A guide to dressing for the revolution is available at http://www.easternstate.org/events/how_to_dress.php.
The celebration includes tours of the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (admission fee $12) between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. The penitentiary will stay open for special Twilight Tours from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Meant to be a quick introduction to the penitentiary and its history, these abbreviated tours last 20 minutes and are available for $5
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.
The Fairmount French Fling Bar Crawl kicks off the weekend on Thursday, July 10, at 7 p.m. with Kronenbourg 1664 Beer Specials at local bars and restaurants. The participating restaurants are the Belgian Cafe, Bishop's Collar, London Grill, Rembrandt's, St. Stephen's Green and Urban Saloon. For every patron who purchases a Kronenbourg, they will receive a French pick-up line pin.
Fairmount restaurants and bars will offer French menu items and beer specials on Friday, July 11. 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. This year's films, shown on the lawn behind the Eastern State Penitentiary, will be "Ratatouille" at 7:30 p.m., Pepe Le Pew Cartoons at 9:30 p.m., and "Paris Je t'Aime" at 10:00 p.m.
The weekend concludes on Sunday, July 13 with a French Champagne Brunch at participating Fairmount restaurants. Specials include crepes and beignets as well as traditional Sunday Brunch specials and a Make Your Own Bloody Mary Bar.
B101FM, The Belgian Cafe, Bishop's Collar, Eastern State Penitentiary, Fairmount Arts Center, Fairmount Community Development Corporation, Friends of Eastern State Penitentiary Park, In the Dog House, The Inquirer & Daily News, Kronenbourg 1664, London Grill, Mouton Cadet, MugShots CoffeeHouse & Cafe, Mural Arts, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, PhillyCarShare, Rembrandt's, St. Stephen's Green, Tastykake, Trio, Urban Saloon, Whole Foods and The Wine School of Philadelphia.
Bastille Day, the French national holiday, took place on July 14, 1789. The storming of the Bastille, a prison with seven prisoners that represented the absolute power of Louis XVI, marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The day currently marks the birth of the Republic and symbolizes the beginning of a new form of government in France, and is celebrated in grand style every year.
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 artists' 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 and $8 for students, seniors, and children ages 7-12 (children under the age of 7 cannot be admitted to the site). The penitentiary is open every day, year round. From April 1 to November 30, admission includes the "Voices of Eastern State" audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. Also included in admission are special guided tours on the subjects of daily life, escapes, prison uprisings and artifacts. For more information and schedules, please call (215) 236-3300 or visit http://www.easternstate.org .