Vintage Parisian Carnival Turns on the Charm on Governors Island
GOVERNORS ISLAND — Starting this weekend, the quick ferry trip to Governors Island will also transport visitors to a whimsical Parisian street fair that’s more than 100 years old.
Fete Paradiso, a festival of vintage Parisian carousel and carnival rides, is making its American debut on Governors Island starting July 13 — just in time for Bastille Day, a celebration of French culture, on July 14.
The historic rides, all from the late 19th or early 20th centuries, are being rebuilt on the island by a group of French artisans who specialize in constructing museum-quality carousels, Fete Parasido organizers said during a tour of the charming fair Wednesday.
Among the classic attractions is a “bicycle carousel” from the late 1800s, one of only two in the world that were created in Paris to encourage the use of what was then the new mode of transportation — the bicycle. The only other bicycle carousel can be seen in the popular Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris,” according to Fete Paradiso.
"These incredible attractions embody everything that is Governors Island — a series of delight and play that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages," said Leslie Koch, president of The Trust for Governors Island, during the tour. "It's really a way to truly experience and be a part of a living art."
The festival is also turning a vintage bumper car pavilion into a beer garden and special event space that will sell classic French food, prepared by popular New York French bistro Le Gamin.
Items on the menu include croque monsieur, french fries, salads and grilled veggies, as well as grilled steak, rotisserie chicken and mussels — and sweet crepes. Prices range from about $5 to $15 for food. Le Gamin owner Robert Arbor said Tuesday that he would also have weekly specials, like pig or lamb slow-roasted on their outdoor pit on the island.
Beer, wine and cocktails will also be sold in the 1900 bumper car pavilion.
A 1930 children's carousel has also been repurposed into a music kiosk, where performers will entertain with period music and sideshow performances — including fire-eaters — to heighten what organizers called a “Fellini-inspired environment.”
This is the first time the attractions are being recreated in such a grand festival. The vintage pieces are owned by two collectors. One of them, Regis Masclet, has been working, alongside his sons, to reconstruct the pieces, which are usually housed in France.
"This is like a dream come true," Masclet said through a translator. "It's how I envisioned this, since I was child."
Fete Paradiso runs every weekend from July 13 to September 29, from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Governors Island. Admission is free, and rides and games cost $3 each.