By Judy Carmack Bross
A “waiter’s race” down Dearborn, crepes and French kit-kat bars all night, DJ Mwelwa Musambacine who kept the dance floor pulsing, and the singing of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem with Sam Dubin at the party’s end made the Alliance Française’s “Storm the Bastille” July’s most celebratory sold-out event.
Bastille Day is the professional group’s yearly capstone event, raising funds for the Alliance’s Education Outreach Program. Guests in French fashion interpretations sipped rosé and could even take a lesson in French phrases promised to “entertain everyone.” Yannick Tagand, Consul General for France in Chicago, spoke about the storming of the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789.
Members of the Bastille Day planning committee told us all about the sold out sensation which began with a family party, featuring children’s activities including, face painting, huge bubbles, and crepes stations, and their own waiter’s race earlier in the day.
Alexandra Hunt said:
“Walking through the doors of the Alliance Française de Chicago, you are immediately greeted with warm smiles and endless resources to broaden your knowledge of all things French. By being a part of the Bastille Day planning committee, I was able to unite with wonderful people who all shared the same vision: planning an unforgettable celebration that would leave a lasting impression on everyone of all ages. My favorite part of the day was seeing everyone enjoy all the fun activities and discover all the local French food Chicago has to offer.
“We began planning this event in early March and are already thinking of how to make it even better in 2024,” committee member Genevieve Sevirini told us.
We were particularly interested in learning more about the waiter’s race and planning committee member Lauren Odom told us:
“The Waiter’s Race is a tradition at AF Chicago, as well as at Bastille Celebrations in France and across the world. At our celebration, it’s a footrace that requires participants to also balance a waiter’s tray with a plastic glass of water on one hand. The race starts at Dearborn and Chicago, then goes to the alley next to the AF where participants turn around, and then heads to the finish line at the AF Chicago entrance. Whoever finishes the race first without spilling their glass wins! It’s a lot of fun and we had a lot of participation this year from both adults and kids. I was managing the sign up process for the race and waving the flag at the finish line. It was cool to look down the sidewalk on Chicago Avenue and see a large crowd cheering, laughing and waving French flags! I’m already excited to see if we can make it bigger and better next year!
“I joined the Alliance Française in 2018, as a first time French student, but became more involved in the last few years as a volunteer and a member of the Professional Group. I’ve always found the community at AF Chicago to be diverse, inclusive, and very friendly. It’s difficult to attend an event at AF and not walk away with a new friend or connection. It’s a community that loves to mix, mingle, and celebrate together,” Odom said. “Also, the community is quite stylish, so I loved seeing everyone’s Bastille Day fashion.”
“We had duck liver canapé on sourdough from Dear Margaret and foie gras de canard with blackberry compote on brioche from Marchesa- even though the items were similar they both had a distinct flavor! Cafe Sophie brought French ham & cheese sandwiches and raspberry tarts, and Offshore supplied us with both mushroom tarts and chicken teriyaki tarts,” Severini said. “As for sweets, we had mini macarons from Vanille and French kit-kat bars from Bistronomic. Grey Goose and Citadelle Gin served craft cocktails and Nougat of Chicago was serving fresh crepes all night!”
DJ Mwelwa Musambacine
Emile Chaillot, Regional Grey Goose Ambassador and Daphne Karlin
“I love being part of the Alliance because you feel such a great sense of community! I was a cultural events intern a few years back and it’s really nice seeing the same members come to the events and that I’m able to stay involved with the AF through the professionals group,” Sevirini added.