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