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Bastille Days: Organizers talk about festival's return and security ahead of the weekend

Posted at 5:19 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 18:19:14-04

MILWAUKEE — The nation's largest French-themed festival is back in Milwaukee! Bastille Days is returning after a two-year hiatus and celebrations kicked off Thursday.

The free four-day French festival is taking place in Cathedral Square.

The event commemorates the storming of the Bastille, the 18th century prison that ignited the French Revolution.

People can enjoy live music and entertainment, ample food options including French and Cajun cuisine, and an opportunity to learn about the French culture.

The festival draws nearly 200,000 people, and organizers say safety is top priority.

"We invested more in security this year than we have ever before," said Eddie Surkey, East Town Association executive director. "We've had a lot of discussions with the Milwaukee Police Department as well as have a fair amount of private security that will be on site."

Executive Director Alliance Française de Milwaukee Anne Leplae works closely with East Town Association to bring the festival to life and understands the worry people may have of large gatherings.

"Everybody wants to have a good time," Leplae stated. "Everybody wants to go home and come back the next day."

Leplae could not detail what security will look like at the festival for security reasons, but barricades and security are almost immediately visible.

Holly Hennessy has been enjoying Bastille Days for years. She said seeing what unfolded in Highland Park had her weary at first, but ultimately decided to enjoy life.

"I can't let that affect my life. If I did, I would go nowhere," she stated.

TMJ4's Ubah Ali asked her if seeing more security makes her more comfortable. She said it makes her feel sad that organizers had to spend money on security because of the world we live in now, but she's glad they did.

Several festival goers shared those same sentiments, including Lauren Herro.

Herro is a Waukesha native and has family and friends still struggling emotionally following the Christmas parade tragedy.

"It's been a difficult time for our whole community," Herro stated.

After the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, the city spent $800,000 to buy new barricades.

Herro is all smiles as she walks around the festival with her son and a French exchange student staying with them. She said seeing the police presence at Bastille Days is reassuring.

"Making their presence known without it being forceful is helping people to enjoy the day," she added.

The festival runs from Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

To learn more about Bastille Days, click here.

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