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Dallas Storms the Bastille in Oak Cliff, Leaving Organizers Très Suprised by Massive Turnout

Here's hoping your relationship with Big Chief White Cloud, the god of parking, isn't just one of those Christmas-and-Easter things, because if you intended to get to last night's Bastille Day celebration in Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District, having him on your side was a major plus.

Organizers and Francophiles Jason and Andrea Roberts and friends planned for about 500 attendees at the street party. This morning, they estimate that more than 1,500 folks from all over Dallas -- not just OC'ers--showed up to eat mussels, crepes and play petanque -- while it lasted, at least. Refreshments started running low just a couple of hours into the event because so many people showed up.

Just got off the phone with Jason, who says they were totally shocked by the attendance. "We did everything wrong," he said. "It was a Wednesday in Oak Cliff in the middle of July and it's a French holiday." But Dallasites showed up in full French regalia -- demonstrating striped shirts, beaucoup des chapeaux and cheers for liberte, egalite, and crepes.

Sadly, cheering for crepes does not make crepes out of thin air. When we arrived at Bishop Arts around 8:30 p.m., hungry for a floppy French pastry, we were turned away at the crepe stand. They'd run out, even after making an extra batch. Who knew so many people would show up to celebrate those damned, godless French? (Though France was the first country besides the U.S. to recognize the Republic of Texas. Vive la France, y'all.)

A lack of crepes was one thing, but mussels, the flagship food of the event, were also in short supply as the sun went down. When I moseyed up to Smoke's booth and explained that they'd run out of les billets pour les mussels and could I just pay cash, the attendant simply told me to take the last plate of spicy, smoky mollusks for free. After getting a lesson in how to loose them from the shells--these were my first-ever mussels, you see -- I closed my eyes and took a gulp. Heaven! Sadly, Smoke mussels didn't make it past the first round of the mussel contest, in which some of Dallas' most beloved chefs competed for the title of mussel master. David Uygur of Lucia won, and our own Jesse Hughey, who was a mussel judge, will have more on that over at City of Ate later on.

Jason Roberts says he's sorry they couldn't accommodate more people, but he's enthused by what the blockbuster attendance means: "We proved that people want good, quality of life activities in the city," he said, adding that all the event-related bureaucratic hoop-jumping that goes on to hold things like Bastille Day prevents more of it from happening. "The city should do everything it can to lower those obstacles and make it easy for us."

Moreover, says Roberts, Bastille Day proved that "even in a down economy, people will come out if you give them the space." And come out they did--while I joked earlier in the week that Bastille Day was surely the honkiest of all holidays -- the diverse crowd disproved my snark. After all, Bastille is about the average citizen demanding rights -- why should Bastille Day celebrations be limited to white table cloths and $75-per-plate snobbery? Says Roberts: "Bastille was like, the storming by the people! Open it up to everyone!"

For those who didn't attend, the Go Oak Cliff Flickr pool is tres chic this matin, and we'll have more photos of our own in a slide show later today.

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Andrea Grimes
Contact: Andrea Grimes

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