Bastille Day 2016 – Tragedy and Triumph

9 Sep,2016 By Jagabond

He said he was delivering ice cream…so security let him pass. Minutes later, he drove through the promenade in Nice, dashing dreams and killing lovers. This was a truly horrific attack, with over 80 people murdered and countless injured. Being someone who suffers from driving anxiety, I had a unique empathy for this situation as I could vividly picture the aftermath. The tragedies that France has suffered not only in Nice, but also in Paris last year, is a test to the French way of life. I predict they triumph over this, as their sense of national pride is often underrated, and you can keep pushing but eventually they will reach a limit. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by these inhuman incidents, and I look forward to the French people responding in a way that solidifies their populace and secures their culture for generations to come.

The attack occurred on Bastille Day, which is the French independence day. This marked the end of feudal society in France, where kings, military and clergy held all the power. In 1789, the locals stormed the Bastille, which was a prison that housed mostly political prisoners. Shortly thereafter, the ‘declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen’ was drafted and, similar to the declaration of independence and bill of rights in the US, drove France into their next phase of social development. The holiday is now celebrated much like July 4th in America, with fireworks, drinking, and endless partying. I’ve often said that France and the US share much in common, which is a reason I think we often butt heads.

I was in Santa Barbara for their annual Bastille Day celebration. This took place in Oak Park, which is the site for multiple events throughout the year….in fact they were already advertising the Greek festival that was occurring later in the month. I was greeted by the expected attractions – the miniature Eiffel Tower at the entrance, the crepe-making booths, and the serving of both wine and Kronenbourg 1664, a remarkably average French beer. I was surprised by the French hot dogs…is this really a thing?

french hot dogs in santa barbara

The music stages were one of the highlights of the festival. One stage was strictly for dancing, and was even giving free lessons of which I didn’t partake in. The dancing was a mix of many different styles, and not anything specific to France. I’m not the biggest fan of dance, but I still found this mildly entertaining.

dancing at the bastille day celebration in santa barbara

The main stage had some great music…sounding much like Carla Bruni’s ‘Little French Song‘, which is a tune I recently fell in love with. I’m not typically a fan of the accordion, but I must admit that French music makes great use of it. I especially loved the English/French rendition of ‘Cheek to Cheek’, which made me feel like I was in a Woody Allen movie.

bastille day festival in santa barbara

french music at bastille day celebration in santa barbara

The highlight for me was the dog parade, which I think conceptually is a comical idea…just try getting multiple dogs to march in unison without getting distracted.

The dogs seemed to each have their own character. Let’s run down what I saw:

1. The yawning dog – disinterested, maybe?

dog in santa barbara for the french festival

2. The paranoid dog – he was running around crazy with his bug eyes!

dog in santa barbara for the french festival

3. The adorable dog – how could you not love that face?

dog at french festival in santa barbara

4. The angry dog – not everyone was happy to be there.

dog at french festival in santa barbara

5. The elitist dog – dressed for success!

dog at french festival in santa barbara

6. The nervous dog – her owners needed to force her participation!

dog at french festival in santa barbara

7. And…Napoleon’s dog – even megalomaniacs can love dogs.

dog at french festival in santa barbara

There was a pseudo-competition as well, with each dog performing tricks. However, due to stage fright or other reasons, none were able to pull it off. The ‘nervous’ dog was the ultimate winner, though I’m not sure what the criteria for winning was. Regardless, this was definitely a pleasant event for dog lovers.

The only downer to the festival was this guy who sang ‘Proud to be an American’. This reminds me of the tourist who visits Paris, wears an American flag shirt and cowboy hat, and then complains about how the Parisians are rude.

My only previous exposure to Bastille Day was the song by Rush, so this was a good introduction to the tradition, and a great way to spend a few hours on a beautiful California afternoon. My only comment after the festival…Vive la France! I close with a photo showing a tribute to the victims of the Nice attack.

bastille day tribute in santa barbara



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