Philly Celebrates Eastern State Penitentiary’s Final Bastille Day
The bittersweet performance included a guest appearance by District Attorney Larry Krasner and a live call to Sen. Pat Toomey's office. (No, he didn't answer.)
Alas, all good things must come to an end — and Eastern State Penitentiary’s beloved Bastille Day event, which took over Fairmount Avenue one last time on Saturday evening, is no exception.
Hundreds of Philadelphians gathered outside the historic penitentiary at 2027 Fairmount Avenue around 5 p.m. on Saturday, many sporting blue berets and red silk scarves, for one final Bastille Day performance. Eastern State Penitentiary, which has held the event annually since 1995, announced last month that this will be its final year hosting the festival.
The very-Philly twist on the French holiday included, of course, a show by Philly drag performance group the Bearded Ladies — followed by the festival’s obligatory Tastykake-throwing finale.
And she said, “Let them eat… TASTYKAKE!” So glad I was able to attend the last #BastilleDay ever at @easternstate. Truly the end of an era! 🇫🇷⚜️🍰 Liberté, égalité, fraternité! pic.twitter.com/kATU1LBqWd
— Sophie McCarthy ( ソフィー) (@sophielmccarthy) July 15, 2018
But that wasn’t all. This year’s presentation also featured Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and a live phone call to the office of evasive Sen. Pat Toomey. (Sadly, no one answered — but the crowd left a message.)
It was a bittersweet occasion — and there were a few boos when organizers took up the mic to explain why it would be the penitentiary’s last.
In June, Eastern State Penitentiary said Bastille Day has grown “beyond its expectations,” and that it must reallocate its resources to see through its new mission statement, which includes more of an emphasis on fostering criminal justice reform.
“As sad as we are to see it go, Bastille Day is extremely resource-intensive, and we have a bold new vision for our organization that requires we make some tough sacrifices,” the organization said in a statement last month.
We’re hoping someone else takes over. In the meantime, let us bask in the glory of these final Bastille Day photos and videos, starting with a conclusory crowd-surfing performance by John Jarboe of the Bearded Ladies.
— Laura Swartz (@pompomflipflop) July 14, 2018
Want to hear hundreds of PA'ians booing Pat Toomey? You're in luck. Thanks, Joan of Arc, for making the call! @SenToomey @PatToomey@easternstate @KnowYourBeards#BastilleDay #FRA #Philly #BastilleDay2018 #PatToomey #ToomeyQuit #PASen pic.twitter.com/WurH9UpjAr
— Toomey says separation 'exaggerated significantly' (@ToomeyMemes) July 15, 2018
#JohnJarboe of the Bearded Ladies Cabaret gets the final #BastilleDay celebration at @easternstate off to a dramatic start. also appearing: D.A. #LarryKrasner. @Tastykake @KnowYourBeards @billy_penn @SheilaShowPHL pic.twitter.com/JwG5YcbhM5
— Donald D Groff (@dgroff) July 15, 2018
— Mike Nik (@6abcmike) July 14, 2018
— Chris Brennan (@ByChrisBrennan) July 15, 2018
— Musicians Care (@MusiciansCaring) July 15, 2018
Really enjoyed seeing the final #bastilleday performance by The Bearded Ladies with @ramunyt today! Got to tour Eastern State Penitentiary, which is super interesting and really shines a light on the giant problems in our criminal justice system, which c… https://t.co/zJBIrP569R pic.twitter.com/hdq7DGHHT9
— ben swofford (@benswofford) July 15, 2018