How would you like to time-travel to turn of the century Paris? If you’re near New York, you can do just that at Fête Paradiso. Free ferry rides whisk visitors from Manhattan or Brooklyn to Governors Island each weekend until September 29, 2013 where they can attend a French-flavored carnival as it would have been 100 years ago.
These are more than just rides. The art forains, or “fairground art” represent the extravagant attractions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the collection of François and Fabienne Marchal. The Marchals started their collection of fairground rides in the 70s. The enthusiasts restored them and researched their histories. A couple of years ago, they sold their collection at auction, half of which was purchased by Francis Staub. Staub and another collector, Regis Masclet, devised the idea of a traveling festival.
This fête was no mean feat. The antique rides had to be shipped from France to New York and reassembled. It took about three months to assemble all the manèges (manej), or merry-go-rounds and other rides. The employees, dressed in turn-of-the century carnival costumes, also had to be trained to run a carnival with showmanship and French flair.
Admission to the Fête Paradiso is free, but each ride costs $3. Some of these rides are so rare that the only other examples are in the Musée des Arts Forains in Paris. Jump aboard the Chinese Dragon or the Bicycle carousel. The Bicycle carousel dates to 1897 and was designed to teach fearful adults how to ride the new-fangled contraption. But don’t be deceived by their age into thinking that these rides are sedate. You’ll soon be screaming like a kid as you whirl faster and faster. When your butterflies have settled, enjoy the French bistro, serving traditional French fare as well as American carnival standards. What a great way to wrap up the summer!
- Fête Paradiso: An early 20th century French carnival is recreated on Governors Island (coolhunting.com)
- New Yorkers can Get a Taste of French Rides and Amusements of Old (medindia.net)
- Never Too Old To Twirl (indifferentreflections.wordpress.com)