Milwaukee’s Bastille Days is one of the nation’s largest French-themed celebrations, attracting over 250,000 visitors annually to the free four-day affair downtown.
The 36th annual Bastille Days returns to Cathedral Square Park July 13 to 16 with free entertainment all weekend long. Featuring live art, an international marketplace, wine and beer tastings, chef demonstrations and street performers, as well as nonstop entertainment on all four festival stages, fest-goers can anticipate a robust lineup of attractions at the four-day long affair.
Associated Bank Storm the Bastille on Thursday
Free slices of French-themed cake will be available for the first 1,000 guests to march into Bastille Days at noon on Thursday, July 13, courtesy of Metro Market. Once sweet tooths are satisfied, fest-goers can enjoy Thursday’s musical menagerie, which includes: Charles Walker Band and Guadalupe-based group, Delgres, on the Cathedral Square Stage; Sweet Sheiks, Brewtown Beat and Generation Z on the Gruber Law Offices – “One Call…That’s All” Stage; InnerWave Trio, Claire Kelly, Terra Guitarra and Ryan McIntyre on the Door Peninsula Winery Stage; and Myserk, Cajun Strangers and Joe 2.0 on the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage.
Kicking off the evening activities, Milwaukee Brewing Company and Bastille Days sponsor Beechwood Distributors will unveil a new brew with a nod to French ingredients at 5:30 p.m. on the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage. Following the beer tasting, the 33rd annual Associated Bank Storm the Bastille 5k run/walk will begin at 9 p.m. This reenactment of the revolutionary storming of the Bastille prison by Parisians in the 18th century will take 5,000+ runners and walkers through the streets of downtown Milwaukee. Registration is $20 in advance at www.bastilledaysfestival.com or $25 day of.
The Big Easy Returns to Town on Friday
Back by popular demand, three Mardi Gras-themed parades led by the Extra Crispy Brass Band will return to Kilbourn Avenue at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. The Cajun-creole vibe will continue with live performances by Robin Pluer and Mardi Gras Indian funk band, Cha Wa, on the Cathedral Square Stage; Andrus & The Mariners, F For Effort, Something To Do and Unity Reggae on the Gruber Law Offices – “One Call…That’s All” Stage; Terra Guitarra, InnerWave Trio, Frogwater and Boo Bradley on the Door Peninsula Winery Stage; and Rebecca & The Grey Notes, In Black ‘N White and Reverend Raven on the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage.
9th Annual Kids Day on Saturday
Free, family-friendly activities will be offered during Bastille Days’ 9th annual Kids Day on Saturday, July 16 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Highlights include ballet stretching and posing, mini French lessons courtesy of the Alliance Française de Milwaukee, magic tricks, a caricature artist, extreme juggling and balancing acts, art activities and other hands-on games. Plus, a French-inspired breakfast will be available in the morning for just $5.
In addition, a variety of live performances will grace the festival’s stages, including: zydeco, string-band music from Feufollet and Listening Party on the Cathedral Square Stage; Ol’ Style Scratch, Life In A Tree and The UnXpected on the Gruber Law Offices – “One Call…That’s All” Stage; Derek Sallmann, Fox & Branch, Breakout Trio and The Squeezettes on the Door Peninsula Winery Stage; and Sweet Diezel Jenkins, AUTOMatic and Extra Crispy Brass Band on the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage.
Spills and Thrills at the Waiter/Waitress Race on Sunday
Cheer for local bars and restaurants as they go head-to-head and tackle an intricate obstacle course while balancing full wine glasses during the annual Waiter/Waitress Race, beginning at 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 17. Following the competitive spectacle, fest-goers can round out their weekend with feel-good tunes by Blair Crimmins & The Hookers, Nineteen Thirteen and Paris-based group, La Jarry, on the Cathedral Square Stage; Eagle Trace, Doozey and The 5 Card Studs on the Gruber Law Offices – ”One Call…That’s All” Stage; Milwaukee Hot Club, Fox & Branch and Tinker Boys on the Door Peninsula Winery Stage; and Robin Pluer and Brett Newski on the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage.
Bastille Days will serve up daily chef, beer and wine demonstrations as area chefs, brewers and sommeliers share French and Cajun themes on the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage. Plus, ticketed wine tastings will take place on Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit http://easttown.com/?page_id=446.
French Fare and Other Activities
With over 90 merchant booths and nearly 30 restaurants, Bastille Days will offer an international marché bursting with flavor, variety and unique finds. French favorites include beignets handcrafted by members of the Alliance Française de Milwaukee, crêpes, wine, and gifts such as Provençal fabrics, soaps, cards and artwork. Other not-to-miss sights include Tamarind Tribal Belly Dancers on the Madison Medical Affiliates Beaux Arts Stage, Madame Gigi’s Outrageous French CanCan dancers on the Gruber Law Offices – “One Call…That’s All” Stage and striking stunts by Carnival of Curiosity & Chaos in Cathedral Square Park. Professional chalk artist, Seth Sanders, will create a French-inspired work of art underneath the 43 ft. Eiffel Tower replica, and roaming busker entertainment can be found around every corner.
Bastille Days is presented by the East Town Association, Inc., a nonprofit downtown Milwaukee business organization that has celebrated Bastille Days in Milwaukee since 1981. Proceeds from the festival are returned to the community through neighborhood improvement programs and civic events such as the popular Jazz in the Park and Cathedral Square Market. Bastille Days is free and open to the public.