Try Something New: Bastille Day 2013 in Philly

The new thing I tried for the month of July is something I've been wanting to do for a couple of years now. In case you're just tuning in, this year I set a goal to try one new thing every month. There are plenty of new things to try in July but I have always wanted to do one thing: celebrate Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. As you may or may not know, July 14th is kind of like France's independence day (go check it out!) and there are surprisingly many celebrations to go to here in the U.S. One of those celebrations is in Philly in its Fairmount neighborhood which happens to contain both a world-class art museum and one of the first prisons to focus on reform rather than punishment. Eastern State Penitentiary was also "host" to Al Capone and has a killer haunted attraction in the fall (or so I've heard, I have no desire to go because I'm a scaredy cat). Eastern State brings plenty of people to the area around July 14th for their crazy celebration of French independence. They make the most of the holiday with a cabaret full of drag queens and super singers and the whole street in front of the prison is shut down for drinking and good times. But the true highlight of the day, besides the male Edith Piaf and the dancing loaf of bread, is when a portly Marie Antoinette declares, "Let them eat Tastykake!" and 2,000 snack cakes are flung into the waiting crowd. I love living near this city.

I don't think I've ever seen such craziness over some 99 cent snack cakes or sweated more in my whole life. Despite the ridiculous crowds and mid-July heat wave, it was a rowdy good time since the bars spill out in the street and beer trucks on the street are serving the French beer Kronenbourg and we were singing butchered and re-imagined versions of Lady Gaga songs. It was definitely something I'm glad to have experienced but I think next time I'll grab a seat in one of the air-conditioned bars down the street, snack on some french fries, sip my beer in peace and buy a Tastykake on my way home.

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