Bastille Festival: Celebrating France in Oregon

Even though I've lived in Aix-en-Provence and Lyon, I've never been in France for la Fête Nationale on July 14th. I'm especially grateful, then, that my hometown of Portland, Oregon, is the site of the largest Bastille Day Festival on the West Coast. Organized by the Alliance Française de Portland, this family-friendly festival draws thousands of visitors over six hours of events. This year marked the tenth annual celebration. Here's what I continue to love about it:

Listening to Dixie New Orleans Jazz in Director's Square

The Entertainment

From New Orleans jazz to fencing demonstrations and a waiter's race, there's plenty to see within a few hours span. This year, soloist Whitney Martin sung a stunning rendition of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

  Members of the Mudtown Stompers marching around the park

Members of the Mudtown Stompers marching around the park

Whitney Martin singing La Marseillaise

The waiter's race requires entrants in the male and female divisions to race-walk three times around the park while one-handedly balancing a tray of Perrier and water glasses. This year's race brought an amusing pile-up at the finish line amid the hurry for second place.

  Thomas Geulin left his post at the St. Honoré booth to participate in the   waiter's race

Thomas Geulin left his post at the St. Honoré booth to participate in the waiter's race

  The pile-up and a spill just after the finish line

The pile-up and a spill just after the finish line

The Food

  Adding that perfectly carmelized creme brulée crust

Adding that perfectly carmelized creme brulée crust

Our Portland festival doesn't lack for quality food vendors. I enjoyed seeing Dominique Geulin's sons working alongside him at his St. Honoré Boulangerie booth, serving Parisien baguette sandwiches and the chouquettes so favorited by French children.

EK's Creme Brulée was a new vendor this year, offering flavors made locally using all organic ingredients. I wish I had disregarded my lactose intolerance long enough to sample it!

The Children's Activities

While not specifically a children's event, Portland's Bastille Festival often includes face painting, balloon animals, and a few activity tables in addition to the music and food. I love taking my children to an event that celebrates French culture in such an enjoyable, public way.

  My daughter coloring a page at  International Leadership Academy' s booth

My daughter coloring a page at International Leadership Academy's booth

  A French Bulldog shows her French spirit

A French Bulldog shows her French spirit

Did you celebrate Bastille Day this year? If you've attended Portland's Bastille festival in the past, what was your favorite part?