(Updated 9/1/2018) Description and review of the 9th Annual Sacramento Bastille Day Waiters’ Race and Street Festival – a fun event held each year on July 14 in Midtown Sacramento (Handle District).
Are you familiar with the backstory of Bastille Day – a national holiday celebrated each year in France? Do you know the story behind the footrace in Paris that inspired the Sacramento Bastille Day Waiters’ Race?
Bastille Day (In Brief)
Bastille Day is the common name used in English-speaking countries when referring to la Fete nationale (the national day of France). Commonly called le 14 Juillet (the 14th of July), the day is the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the Bastille prison in Paris in rebellion against the monarchy. The day is celebrated throughout France each year with military parades, fireworks and other festivities.
Waiters’ Race Backstory (In Brief)
The origin of the Waiters’ Race is generally believed to be Paris, France. Archive footage of the course des garcons de café dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century. It is thought that the organized races were started in order to improve the recognition of the waiter profession in Paris.
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Sacramento Bastille Day Waiters’ Race and Street Festival
Sacramento, like many other cities around the world, stages a Waiters’ Race on Bastille Day. In Sacramento, the Bastille Day Waiters’ Race and Street Festival takes place in the Handle District on the 1800 block of L Street in Midtown Sacramento. This year the event was held from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the Waiters’ Race starting at 4:30 p.m.
Entrants in the Waiters’ Race must carry a tray with a half-full bottle of Perrier and two glasses half-filled with water twice around the block (18th and 19th Streets, L Street and Capitol Avenue). The goal is to make it to the finish line without spilling a drop of water.
As it was a Saturday I expected there would be a good-sized crowd in attendance – and I was right. My friend and I arrived in Midtown Sacramento around 4:00 p.m. and could not believe our luck – we found seats in the shade right near the start-finish line! Shade was of the utmost importance as it was a really hot day – 97 degrees.
The Sacramento Bastille Day Waiters’ Race and Street Fair was very well organized. Umbrella’s lined the street so that attendees that were standing could get out of the sun, and there was a huge tub of ice filled with bottles of water free for the taking. There was also a tent offering several different beers on tap that was doing a brisk business. A stage was set up in front of the start-finish line and a band was playing jazzy, swing-like music.
French flags were passed out, and there were balloons for the children as well as face-painting.
The Sacramento Honorary French Consul acted as the Master of Ceremonies, and he and a representative of the Alliance Francaise de Sacramento sang the French national anthem immediately prior to the start of the race. The Sacramento Bastille Day Waiters’ Race benefits both the Alliance Francaise de Sacramento and the Sacramento French Film Festival. Both organizations had informational booths at the free event where attendees could make a donation if they were so inclined.
Before the race the rules were explained for the benefit of both the approximately 50 contenders and those of us there to watch the race. Entrants were admonished not to run, and were advised that they were also being judged on “style” as they made their way from start to finish. The most important rule – deliver your tray and the contents to the finish line without having spilled a drop.
Following behind the racers were several young men armed with the equipment needed to immediately sweep up any broken glass.
Upon reaching the finish line, after making two circuits of the block, women were instructed to place their trays on the long tables to the left of the street, and the men were instructed to do the same on the right side of the street. Prior to determining the winners of the race the judges inspected each tray for any trace of spillage.
To keep the crowd entertained as the judges were doing their due diligence, a child’s race was held. Children who entered were given a white “waiter” T-shirt, a tray and a water balloon in a plastic cup. Needless to say – the children were really cute.
The children were also instructed that there was to be no running as they made their way to the end of the block and back. Many a balloon did not make it back to the finish line – but each child was a “winner” and received a $5 coupon for a nearby yogurt shop.
About 20 minutes after the completion of the main event the winners were announced starting with Third Place. Winners in the women’s and men’s division each received a medal and a monetary award: First Place – $500; Second Place – $250; and, Third Place – $100.
The restaurants employing the First Place winners were awarded “custody” of the trophy won by their employee to be proudly displayed in the winning restaurant – until next year.
My friend and I both agreed that the Sacramento Bastille Day Waiters’ Race is a fun event and we were really glad we went – despite the heat.
(Updated 9/1/2018) The winners of the 2018 Sacramento Bastille Day Waiters’ Race were:
- First Place – Amanda of Ironhorse Tavern and Elijahn of Paesano’s
- Second Place – Lisa of Brasserie Capitale and Nick of The Diplomat
- Third Place – Nadia of Zocalo and Ben of The Firehouse Restaurant
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