Bastille Days Opens Thursday!
Our photos capture the festival's Eiffel Tower rising up. And how old is the festival, anyway?
Bastille Day, or French National Day, commemorates the start of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille that happened on July 14, 1789. Milwaukee has its own “Bastille Days,” one of the nation’s largest French-themed festivals, that last four days, and starts with a “Storming of the Bastille.”
The free festival — running Thursday through Sunday in and around Cathedral Square Park — pays tribute to Milwaukee’s less-than-robust French heritage, which of course includes city founder and fur trader Solomon Juneau, who founded the settlement of Juneautown in what’s now East Town and served as Milwaukee’s first mayor.
The festival even has its own 43-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower that stands in the middle of Cathedral Square Park. An Milwaukee School of Engineering engineer and a 100-foot crane are two of the big guns behind this tower’s constructions, among other helpers. The Eiffel tower is made of three large connecting parts, and attaching arches that wrap all the way around the structure.
The tower lights up at night and even has hourly-light shows when the sun goes down at the festival. Originally a cosmetic display for a department store, the tower changed ownership and was re-purposed. The exact age isn’t known, but it seems to be anywhere from 20-30 years old, and it’s been a part of Bastille Days for at least 12 years. Its wooden structure was redone and repainted to get the color correct, and a team at MSOE has made sure that it’s structurally-sound.
And here’s a question for readers: how old is Milwaukee’s Bastille Days? This Chicago Tribune story may give you a hint of how far back the fest goes.
Haven’t made it to Bastille Days in the past? Check out our photos from 2014 to see what you’ve been missing.