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North Texans Celebrate French Roots At Bastille On Bishop Festival

Gus Contreras
The stormy weather didn't stop festival-goers from gathering in the Bishop Arts District for the Bastille on Bishop Festival on July 14.

With all the rich French history America has to offer in cities like New Orleans and St. Louis – North Texas might not seem like a haven for Francophiles. 
That wasn't the case yesterday in the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff, where the fifth annual Bastille on Bishop Festival was held. 

Just ten days after America’s celebrated its independence, France got its due from Dallasites wearing berets and striped shirts.
"The 14th of July is for the French people [like] the Fourth of July is for the American people," Pascaline Thomas, who was born in northern France, says. "[Bastille Day] is a very important day because it started the French Revolution with the storming of Bastille."

For a night at least Bishop Arts felt a little like the Champs-Élysées. Vendors lined the streets and folks noshed on mussels and baguettes. The French influence on the Oak Cliff neighborhood isn’t just in the steak-frite at Boulevardier or the treats from the Oak Cliff Creperie food truck.

"Bastille Day is kind of a big deal here in Oak Cliff because originally this area was founded by the French," Ralph DiFranzo, who's been to the festival every year, explains. "It was a big French settlement here that was a utopian community interested in the arts and literature, but they were not very good farmers apparently, so it was short lived."

North Texas actually has some French roots. A group of settlers tried to establish a colony called “La Reunion,” but couldn’t make a go of it.

On Monday, tons of gravel was dumped in the middle of the street to create a petanque court.

"Petanque is a very famous game that is very relaxing and French people like it a lot," DiFranzo says. "You usually have a big square with sand and you can play whenever you want and sometimes you can just sit down and have a glass of rosé and start the game again."

For some, the festivities the brought back memories. Debbie Kopec recalled a visit to the Tour De France.

"We went to the last three days [for the Tour], two of those were in little towns, which was like Oak Cliff and it’s the same party atmosphere," Kopec says.

And with the lightning Monday night, it made Oak Cliff feel just a little bit like the city of lights.