Francophiles flocked to the Mississippi River by the thousands to celebrate French National Day in New Orleans. Presented by the Alliance Fraçaise with the support of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, the Bastille Day Fête had all of the elements of a traditional French celebration.

There was plenty of wonderful French cuisine to sample from a number of locally based French eateries that participated in the event. Pâtisserie was also abundant and ever so tempting, as were an assortment of several French wines, including Champagne, for toasting the occasion.

The day’s musical performances reflected our city’s cultural connection with France and people danced and swayed in a wonderful, celebratory homage to France’s most patriotic holiday.

Spanish Plaza was transformed for the day to a French Plaza thanks to the talents of artist Shauna Grissett. Inspired by her time in Paris and New York, Grissett created 54 large-scale interactive art tiles that encircled the water fountain in Spanish Plaza. Most tiles allowed festers the chance to use chalk to draw or list their favorite French city, favorite French wine, favorite French fashion designer, favorite French song or favorite French cheese. Some of the chalk art was wonderfully creative and I loved the interactive component behind the effort.

Uniquely New Orleans and one of the day’s many highlights included a French Dog Contest where entrants were judged in a number of categories including Most French, Best Dressed and my personal favorite, Most “Jules Verne” inspired. The costumes were extremely creative and as varied as the breeds that participated.

Judging the contest were panelists Margarita Bergen, the NOTMC’s Mark Romig, Louisiana SPCA Board President Jackie Shreves and The Advocate’s own Nell Nolan who also reigned as queen. Competition sponsors included Petcetera, NOLA Bark Market, Petco, Prytania Veterinary Clinic and Canine Connection.

According to Alliance Française Director Aurelie Champvert, several thousand people attended the annual event, which was staged in Spanish Plaza for the first time.

“We love this setting and hope to be back here again next year,” Champvert said. The primary focus of the organization’s celebration is community outreach and money raised by this year’s fête will support the 2015 celebration.

The Alliance Française was founded in 1833 and is the largest network of French language and cultural centers in the world. A New Orleans chapter was created in 1984 and serves to promote an appreciation for the French language and the Francophone culture within the state of Louisiana.

For more information on the nonprofit group, visit Joyeux Jour de la Bastille, everyone!

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