Seattle Center's annual Bastille Day Festival Sunday was upstaged for part of the day - a large-screen television nearby cast the World Cup soccer finale between The Netherlands and Spain.
Nonetheless, sports fans routinely sneaked over to the "Café" nearby for a croissant. Ultimately, thousands of fans of everything French - as well as many bona fide French people -- flocked to the event held at Fisher Pavilion. And they weren't disappointed -crepes, tulle fabric and berets abounded, and one woman wore a dress featuring the red, white and blue stripes of the French flag.
The festival commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille Fortress, which brought about the end of the monarchy and has become a day of national French pride.
Organized every year by the organization France Education Northwest, the festival aims to bring French culture and community to the people of Seattle and the Puget Sound area. The festival lasted from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"The organizations work together to promote French businesses and relationships and overcome stereotypes," said Bill King, executive vice president of the French American Chamber of Commerce and board member of FEN. The Chamber had a booth at the festival.
He went on to stress the role the festival has played in creating a community not only for Americans looking for exposure to French culture, but also to help French citizens network and share ideas with others.
L'Alliance Francaise de Seattle also had a presence at the festival and boasts the largest network of French language and cultural centers in the world. One of the organization's fliers states that the local organization "has a history dating back more than 70 years with the founding of the Seattle Cercle Francais."
Marie-Ange Wood, educational director of l'Alliance Francaise de Seattle and FEN board member, agreed with King, explaining that the festival helped many French affiliated organizations share their cultural ties with the Seattle community, especially because admission is free.
The festival featured booths from local French restaurants and shops as well as French organizations such as the University of Washington French and Italian Studies program and the Nantes Sister City Association.
This year marked the 30th Anniversary of Seattle's sister city relations with Nantes, France, a regional capital that shares many commonalities with the city of Seattle, including being located near water, having many local wineries, and calling itself home to a major university.
According to former Seattle City Council member Randy Revelle, who first helped negotiate the sister-city agreement with Nantes, the project was the brainchild of the late UW professor Howard Nostrand who specialized in French and wanted to see Seattle form a relationship with a city in his beloved France.
By September 1980, after negotiations, Nantes and Seattle were consecrated as sister cities. The president of the Nantes Sister City Association, Thomas H. Bennett, said the sister city program began when President Eisenhower sought to form bonds between countries in an effort to preserve peace between nations. "Seattle alone has 21 sister cities," he said. Chicago is the only other city in the United States with more, 22.
But the festival was not all international business. Various French musicians performed while crepes were prepared and sold for around $5 alongside croissants and other French favorites.
Three different chefs from nearby restaurants demonstrated preparation of French cuisine and passed out samples to visitors. Their recipes will be posted on www.seattle-bastille.org.
The festival had something for everyone - beyond the World Cup there was wine tasting for adults, face painting for children, French readings, a Citroen car showcase and a photograph exhibit of archival gelatin prints of Paris and the French countryside. Home Depot sponsored a souvenir tile painting workshop. And a local author, Shawn Underwood, promoted and autographed her new memoir "Mommy, Are We French Yet?"[[In-content Ad]]