On Saturday, July 14, people in Oak Cliff gathered together to celebrate Bastille Day at Bastille on Bishop Street Festival. The event, organized by Go Oak Cliff and the Alliance Francaise de Dallas, featured wine, crepe stands, vespas, mussel tastings, petanque courts, mimes, accordions, french maid relays, dancing and more. It ran from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
“This is the Bastille Day festival,” Officer Gunter, who monitored the event, said. “We are celebrating the French Revolution, or Independence Day. These festivals are just a testament to the spirit of the people of Oak Cliff – choosing to come out here, choosing to be safe. It’s a great area. Where else but Oak Cliff can neighbors come together, have a good time in a nice, worldly fashion with nothing bad happening?”
The party was maintained through volunteers. According to Gunter, most (if not all) of the activities were by locals.
Resident seamstress and Salvage House–boutique owner, Tracy Popken, ran the French maid race. The game pitted artists against French maids – the contestants had to go through a hopscotch gauntlet to get baguettes. The winners received water balloons, which were left to their own designs. She has hosted the French maid race every year.
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“We’re all just locals,” Popken said. “I know it looks like a bigger thing, but Go Oak Cliff sponsors it. So it’s just a bunch of cool people in the neighborhood who like to get things done.”
In addition to Bastille Day, Go Oak Cliff also sponsors a Film Festival, a bike race, a Greek Festival, a Beer Run and others. Popken said that most of these events started as simple neighborhood parties, getting larger – and increasingly energetic – as more people showed up. Popken feels that these affairs help bolster Oak Cliff’s sense of fellowship and improved the neighborhood’s safety.
“I think the thing about this neighborhood and about the events we put on is that we don’t do it with showmanship in mind, and we don’t want big corporate sponsors,” Popken stated. “We’re not trying to be anything amazing. We’re just trying to enjoy each other, trying to savor our neighborhood. And you’ll see most of the people here – they walk, they bike here. It’s not about showing up in your posh car and having a big thing.”
According to Popken, this goes against the grain of Dallas – many of our social events involve the wealthiest people of the city. She said that, at these posh parties, a lot of people don’t want to walk in anyway – because they’re cold, concrete and distant.
“All the amazing cities and the places you really want to go – like the heart of Paris, like downtown Rome, like San Francisco and that adorable little gay district they have, or London – when you think about that, you think about tiny little streets,” Popken said. “You think about cute buildings. Unique shops. Roaming the streets with every kind of person possible, trying to pick-pocket you, people of all kinds bumping up against each other…that’s what makes life in the city.
“And that’s what we have here. And that’s what I think attracts people from all over the city here – it’s real, it’s all jumbled in a big, beautiful mess. And that’s what makes our neighborhood good. It’s something I think makes the city more world-class.”
D Magazine intern Paige Harriman is going to be a sophomore at UT Austin.