The return of the July 14 festival in San Francisco
San Francisco has been celebrating July 14 since the first time in 1880. But after two years of the biggest celebration being suspended (or held on Zoom in 2021) due to pandemic restrictions, excitement is high for the return of the this year’s in-person event at the Embarcadero Plaza.
“This is an opportunity to get together and celebrate the resilience of our French companies,” said Chloé Soroquere, president of the Comité Officiel, the official committee of Franco-American organizations in the Bay Area that organizes the festival. “We promote French culture to Francophiles in the Bay Area and reach out to the community at large…and it’s a lot of fun.”
The fourth annual San Francisco Bastille Day festival will take place on Saturday, July 16 at the Embarcadero Plaza across from the Ferry Building. The free-entry festival opens at 11 a.m. PST and runs until 6:30 p.m. PST. It’s a fair (open-air festival) which will include organizations featuring a selection of French food, produce and artists, a variety of Kronenbourg wines and beer as well as performances by several French musicians, bands and a mime. It also includes a vintage Citroën car show, a petanque competition, Tahitian dance performances, tours of San Francisco’s French Quarter, waiter race, Serge the Mime and more.
According to Soroquere, holding the event at the Embarcadero Plaza was approved by the City of San Francisco on January 26, 2022. This meant a short amount of time to prepare for the event, line up all sponsors and attendees, sign up for entertainment and get organized security and safety.
“Everyone felt like it was a revival of social activity for everyone and it was more appealing because it was outdoors,” Soroquere said. “But everything had to be accelerated.”
The effect of two years of economic problems due to the rules of the pandemic was that there were fewer organizations and individuals to contact and secure their participation. Many small French businesses, and some of the larger ones too, had closed or returned to France. It also impacted fundraising as regular supporters had smaller budgets or couldn’t participate. But the Official Committee found new or smaller traders and sympathizers, lowered the participation price to make it more attractive and even received funds from Support for the Associative Fabric of French People Abroadorganization of the French Ministry which contributes to the support of French organizations abroad.
The result will be a “very fun” day at the Embarcadero Plaza filled with stalls featuring popular French brands such as Goudy’s French Cuisine, Marin French Cheese Company, La Crepe a Moi, My French Cuisine, Café Bastille, Petit Pot, Fabriques Delices , artisan macaroons and many more. The participating wines are Château Potelle, Boisset Collection, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant and Vigneron Imports. The food trucks will represent countries with a French history (of sorts), including Moroccan cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine, and even an empanada truck run by a French female chef.
The festival will be a zero-waste event with all liquids served by the glass, food served with compostable plates and utensils, and 15 recycling stations. All visitors are encouraged to bring their own bottles, cups, etc. recyclable.
There will be many events to enjoy the walk in the square. A petanque The competition will take place and will pit five Bay Area clubs against each other. A server race will take place (traditionally called the Waitresses and Waiters Race), although more servers must register and prizes will be awarded. Enjoy the colorful Citroën cars that will show off their distinctive style. The Alliance Française chapters of San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Berkeley will share a booth to help visitors with their French and inform them of courses to take to improve their language skills.
If you are curious about the influence of France on San Francisco, tours of the city’s French Quarter will be offered, as well as meeting author Claudine Chalmers who has written books on the history of the French in San Francisco. Francis. A variety of bands will perform on stage culminating in Street 66 and French local group Last minute starting right after a Can-Can dance performance.
Soroquere’s favorite entertainment is the Daily City-based Tahitian dance group Hui Tarava. One of the places she lived growing up was Tahiti and has been experimenting with dancing since she was 12 years old.
“But what I actually appreciate is the fact that everyone comes together and we bring people in from everywhere,” she said.
Franco-American friendship began with the Treaty of 1778 and military support for the American Revolutionary War when France became the first ally of the new United States. French citizens came to California as early as 1831 and were major players in building San Francisco during the Gold Rush by operating shops, laundries, restaurants, and hotels on Clay Street. The French Hospital, the first in the city, was opened in 1851 and open to everyone. The “Paris of the West” continues the friendship with July 14, 2022 which celebrates all things French and San Franciscan. The party begins. Let the party begin.
Main photo credit: July 14, 2019 celebration in San Francisco, courtesy of www.bastilledaysf.org