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Bastille Days Serves All Things French

Annual festival returns to Downtown’s Cathedral Square

Jul. 11, 2017
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Bastille Days is back for its 36th year, and we could not be more excited! The perfect July temperatures, the food and wine, the replica Eiffel Tower, the je ne sais quoi, the ooh-la-la! Come down to Cathedral Square for a festival unlike any other. 

The fun begins at 1 p.m. Thursday with a French-themed cake from the Metro Market for the first 1,000 guests. It’s the perfect time to take a break and satisfy your sweet tooth whether you work in the area or not. At 5:30 p.m., Bastille Days sponsors Beechwood Distributors and Milwaukee Brewing Company will unveil a new beer that’s a nod to all things French. They will be sampling the beer, too, so get there early to sip some suds. It all happens at the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage.

Then, at 9 p.m., it’s time to Storm the Bastille with a run-walk that reenacts the revolutionary storming of the Bastille in Paris. The customary 5K run/two-mile walk sponsored by Associated Bank is a nighttime romp through Downtown. The race contestants will dash it out before enjoying the opening night of food, drink and music. Registration is $20 in advance; $25 race day (visit BastilleDaysFestival.com to register). Come to race or just watch on Thursday; fun is in store for all. Then, plan to come back for the weekend. There’s so much to do and see; you won’t want to miss a day. 

Bastille Days is a street festival where you can peruse art and shop for jewelry, clothes, bags and more all while listening to music and eating scrumptious food—much of it with a distinctly French or Cajun flare—and while sipping wine, beer or perhaps a margarita with a French twist: Chambord. You’ll find an eclectic mix of music, dance and other performances on several stages. There’ll be roaming buskers around every corner, and the Carnival of Curiosity & Chaos will be performing their daring feats nightly in Cathedral Square Park.

There’s nothing more French than chalk drawings. You’ll be transported to Paris when you view the unique chalk drawing under the 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica created by professional chalk artist Seth Sanders.

The Big Easy comes to Milwaukee for Bastille Days, too. If you couldn’t make it down south for Mardi Gras, you’ll want to catch any or all of the three Mardi Gras-themed parades on Friday, July 14, headed by the Extra Crispy Brass Band. Cajun-Creole sound and authentic New Orleans style take over the streets of Milwaukee… Let the good times roll, y’all! Catch the parades at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.

Throw up your skirts, kick your legs up, sashay your skirts, do the cancan! Or, you can just watch the professionals do it. Madame Gigi’s Outrageous French Cancan Dancers will perform the shocking, sassy and fun dance on the attorney David Gruber-sponsored One Call… That’s All Stage. You might also find yourself wooed by the Tamarind Tribal Belly Dancers; they’ll be twirling their hips on the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage. 

There’s something for the kids, too. The ninth annual Kids Day from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, features myriad activities to inspire your children and you. There’ll be ballet posing and stretching, mini French lessons with the Alliance de Française de Milwaukee, magic, art activities, extreme juggling, a caricature artist and other hands-on activities. Plus, for $5, you can eat a French-inspired breakfast.

Other highlights from Bastille Days 2017 include:

  • The ever-popular Waiter-Waitress Races on Sunday, July 16 at 3 p.m. The obstacle course tests the skills of servers laden with trays of full wine glasses. Hilarity ensues.
  • Daily food, beer and wine demonstrations with local chefs, brewers and sommeliers, featuring French and Cajun themes.
  • Music, music and more music on the One Call… That’s All Stage, Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage, Cathedral Square Stage, Kilbourn East Stage and Kilbourn West Stage. 
  • Ticketed wine tastings on Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (purchase tickets at the website below). 
  • Crêpes, wine and gifts, include Provençal fabrics, cards, soaps and art.
  • Beignets! Once again, the Alliance de Française de Milwaukee will be crafting these delightful French donuts—airy bites of goodness served with powdered sugar or cinnamon and sugar. Trust me: Don’t forget the beignets! 

The best part? Entry is free! Can you say c’est si bon?

Bastille Days runs 11 a.m.-11 p.m., July 13-16 at Cathedral Square, 520 E. Wells St. You can find a complete list of events for Bastille Days at eastown.com.

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