Who would have thought that the biggest, and happiest Bastille Day celebration in the U.S. would be found in Milwaukee WI. It is not as if Beer City had a huge population of French immigrants; it does not. What Milwaukee does have is a convivial population That loves to party, has a history of exuberant community celebrations, and lovely summer weather custom made for outdoor food, music and beer/wine!
Milwaukee takes a lot of grief for its racial issues, but it is a lovely town. There are abundant old preserved buildings , you can still see the occasional older immigrant homemaker sweeping the sidewalk. It’s a conservative town that took seven years to decide whether to accept the offer of free land on which to build the city hall, and to this day is one of several cities used by merchandisers to test product saleability.
It is a city of steeples and saloons. Neither are as obviously present as they were in the days of my youth, but both are prominent in the skyline (the steeples) and on the street (the saloons). Yes, it is a city in transition, as are all the cities in the so-called rust belt but it is a vibrant place to be.
The celebration has been ongoing for 36 years now. We were part of the fun for the first 15 years or so,until the festival became too popular — meaning too popular for US, but not the rest of the world! It usually starts with a fun 2k/5k run walk they call Storm the Bastille on the first evening and continues on through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Of the many festivals in town I do think hey tend to luck out with nicer weather than some of the festivals; early July is to die for here!
There are plenty of small stages around which to gather to watch street performers, as well as larger stages featuring a variety of music talent. It’s not like an arena show with thousands and thousands of listeners, usually you’ll have a few hundred, but it’s good, cheap,family fun for all.
there are obvious French cliches. MSOE – the Milwaukee School of Engineering shows up with their model of theEiffel Tower, and this year there was a street artistdo9ng a chalk drawing beneath the tower.
Crowds can vary significantly, being the most intense in the evening. We aren’t big night-time explorers so we go early in the day to avoid them. We haven’t missed a good time yet.
This year one of the fun performing groups were Madame Gigi’s Scandalous Cancans. The dance troup is from Dayton Ohio and they have been performing at Bastille Days for the last 17 years. For a bit of fun I thought I’d share a little of their “scandalous” entertaining style.
The dance Thomas Edison imported to theU.S.
A little Can Can
There you have it. A fun day in Milwaukee!