The Bastille Day celebration at Eastern State Penitentiary says goodbye

Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary says goodbye in 2018. | R. Kennedy for GPTMC
R. Kennedy for GPTMC

For the past 24 years, Bastille Day has been celebrated at Eastern State Penitentiary with a drag cabaret reenactment of the French Revolution and the launch of 2,000 Tastykakes (the butterscotch krimpet variety) into the air to coincide with Marie Antoinette’s famous line, “Let them eat cake.”

(Side note: I was hit in the head with a Tastykake the first time I went and it was glorious.)

When the event began in 1995, 17,000 people came to Eastern State Penitentiary. In 2017, 250,000 people attended the Bastille Day celebrations there, according to a statement released by Eastern State Penitentiary.

“We have firmly established a reputation as a destination for Philadelphians, leisure tourists, school students and their teachers to discover stories of the men and women who lived and worked behind the prison walls, and to reflect on some of the most critical issues facing our nation today,” the statement reads.

Eastern State Penitentiary goes on to discuss their “new vision” for the future, which includes the rewriting of their mission statement.

“We recently rewrote our mission statement to embody a new vision, and created an ambitious Strategic Plan for the infrastructure and visitor amenities necessary to realize this site’s extraordinary potential. Now we are excited to celebrate the French Revolution one more time before turning our focus to these new and exhilarating endeavors.”

New and exhilarating endeavors? What could be cooler than reenacting the French Revolution on top of one of the world’s most famous prisons, with a drag cabaret performance and flying Tastykakes?

The theme for this week in Philadelphia seems to be the end to many cherished local events.

The last Bastille Day will be held at Eastern State Penitentiary on Saturday, July 14.  

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