Channel your inner French guy or gal at the July 15 Bastille Day Fête at NOMA
During our second visit to New Orleans before moving here, we were in the French Quarter on a walk after dinner and drinks with friends at Eat New Orleans. In the distance, we heard a brass band and decided, as one does, to follow the music. Before long, we were caught up in our first second line through the streets with the band, the other game revelers like ourselves and several people dressed in French-themed costumes. The group marched all the way to Washington Artillery Park and up the stairs, circling around the cannon. One of the leaders jumped on top of the cannon and began waiving the French flag to wild cheers and applause. We quickly realized it was one of the city’s slightly less organized celebrations of Bastille Day. Traditionally celebrated on July 14, the event is formally called La fête nationale in France and commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, as well as the date it became the French national holiday, or Fête de la Fédération, in 1790.
Since moving here in 2014, Mark and I have attended a slightly less bawdy, but equally as fun celebration of the event, the Bastille Day Fête at Spanish Plaza. New Orleans has so much French heritage, and the event draws enthusiastic participation from the many French groups, organizations and businesses in town. It is considered one of the best Bastille Day celebrations in the United States and quickly made its way to the top of my own New Orleans festival calendar.
This year, the festival’s fifth, the event is moving to the New Orleans Museum of Art. On July 15 from 4 to 10 p.m., the French (and local Francophiles) will “storm” the museum for dancing, live music, French cuisine, cocktails and a celebration of the French National Day. Organizers say the museum will be transformed into the “bal des pompiers," or Fireman’s Ball, a traditional celebration.
As in years past, there will be a dog contest. Owners dress their dogs in French-themed costumes and often follow suit in their own matching or similarly themed attire. There are loads of children’s activities as well.
This year, in addition to the above, there will be a visit by the Merry Antoinettes (http://themerryantoinettes.com/), a local Mardi Gras Krewe many are familiar with from various parades and parties during carnival season and beyond. Attendees will enjoy live music by the Lost Bayou Ramblers, Gisele Bonfaire and Bon Bon Vivant. There also will be bilingual tours of the museum’s French collection, as well as a light show.
The outdoor activities are free to the public. Tickets to the festivities inside the museum are $5, or free to NOMA members. Visit the website for more information.