Milwaukee Readies for French Festival

MILWAUKEE -- Visitors will storm the streets around this city's Cathedral Square Park for the downtown district's annual Bastille Days July 9 to 12.

The festival, dedicated to preserving Wisconsin's historical connections to France, recalls the streets of Paris with French foods, wine bistros, exhibits, attractions and entertainment. Louisiana's Acadian heritage and Creole culture also find representation in the cuisine and music.

In addition to strolling minstrels who roam through the crowds, entertainers on four performing stages offer an assortment of musical styles, including Cajun, dixieland, reggae, classical and cabaret.

This year, the grounds have been expanded west on Kilbourn Avenue to Broadway to accommodate new attractions as well as an expanded marketplace and food vendors.

New among the 25 different restaurants offering a taste of French, Cajun and creole cooking is La Taste de Bastille, which features smaller, sample-size portions -- at sample-size prices -- of many of the festival items.

Also new this year is a French Market developed by business students from Paris. The students will be promoting a variety of products from French companies, including Louis Pion watches, chocolates, posters and collectibles.

Joining a 43-foot scale model of the Eiffel Tower, a replica of the Arc de Triomphe will become the festival's newest landmark and gathering point.

The festival begins on July 9 at 9 p.m. with the traditional storming of the Bastille -- a five-kilometer run and two-mile walk -- re-enacting the birth of the French Revolution.

In a different kind of race, the Waiters and Waitresses Duel, two new divisions have been added: the Classic Challenge and the X-Games. A Paris tradition, this event pits teams from area restaurants against one another in a race through an obstacle course, each contestant juggling a tray of wine-filled glasses. In the X-Games, participants wear flippers.

New competitions will also include a memory game and half-barrel relay. The contests begin at 1 p.m. July 12 at the main stage.

A traditional French Mass, including a French chorale, will be said on July 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the historical Old St. Mary's Church downtown.

Festival hours are 11 a.m. to midnight July 9 to 11, and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. July 12. Admission is free.

Bastille Days, East Town Association, Phone: (414) 271-7400, Fax: (414) 271-6401, E-mail: [email protected], Web:

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The Park East Hotel is the official hotel of Bastille Days. The 159-room hotel is within walking distance of the heart of the festival.

Room rates, commissionable at 10%, are $98, single, and $108, for two to four guests. Availability is limited for the peak festival nights of Friday and Saturday, with fewer than 30 vacancies at press time.

The hotel has an outside deck that overlooks Lake Michigan, free parking and a downtown shuttle service.

The Park East Hotel, Phone: (800) 328-7275

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