You don’t have to fly to France to party like a Parisian. Get hyped for the French Cultural Center’s biggest party of the year, the July 14 celebration of Bastille Day, France’s national holiday equivalent to the American Fourth of July.
The 42nd annual Bastille Day celebration is a French-style block party, complete with food, drinks, two live music acts and an expected 2000 guests. Marlborough Street will be blocked off between Berkeley and Clarendon streets in Boston’s Back Bay.
Bostonians may know the celebration as one of the summer’s biggest parties, but the event is just as much a celebration of the beginnings of French democracy, according to French Cultural Center executive director Barbara Bouquegneau.
“France is where all those humanitarian ideas were generated from all our great philosophers, what we call the 'Lumières,'” she says. “On top of the celebration of July 14, which was the actual day the Bastille jail was raided, it has evolved for us into a celebration of our real values: liberty, equality, fraternity.”
Bastille Day commemorates the Storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution, when the people rose up against the reigning monarchy. Boston’s 2017 celebration seeks to capture that same spirit and energy.
In partnership with World Music/CRASHarts, the event will feature two well-known French musicians, Daby Touré and Ben l’Oncle Soul. Touré is known for combining the musical styles of multiple countries and has performed with Peter Gabriel, Rihanna and Bob Geldof. Ben l’Oncle Soul has appeared on the French top album charts and plays a unique blend of pop, hip-hop, reggae and R&B, among other genres.
Guests will not only hear French culture at the celebration, as they'll be able to taste it too. Eight area restaurants will sell food and drinks for purchase, including Bar Boulud, Bastille Kitchen, La Voile Newbury Street, La Voile Brookline, Mister Crepe, Waffle Cabin, Teranga and Wilson Farm.
“We used to joke that this is the only block party where you can freely drink alcohol without the brown paper bag,” Bouquegneau says of the event’s ample adult beverage opportunities.
However, the celebration is still family-friendly. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., there will be a children’s corner offering crafts and face-painting. Additionally, a VIP reception will be held in the French Cultural Center’s garden, complete with an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, desserts and free access to the street festival.
Ultimately, organizers hope to use the event as a means to celebrate French culture and Franco-American relations.
“It’s about promoting good cultural relations between the United States and France,” says Jessica Nussenbaum, cultural programs manager. “It started just to celebrate these values.”
Bouquegneau noted that the festivities took on new significance last year, as they took place shortly after the terrorist attacks in Nice, France.
“It was amazing the support we received,” she said. “[Attendees] said we know some people don’t feel like celebrating, but it’s important to come and honor those values.”
Bouquegneau also notes that many Francophone communities are well-represented in Boston, and the French influence on the city is on public display.
“If you take a historical tour and look at monuments, you see so many streets with French names,” she said. “It’s ever-present in Boston in remembrance of all the historical contributions that are French.”
If you go:
July 14, 6.p.m-11 p.m., Marlborough Street between Berkeley and Clarendon streets, Boston, $33 in advance and $40 at the door, children under 10 are free, http://frenchculturalcenter.org/events/bastille-day-party-2017/