The bicycle carousel at Fête Paradiso (all photographs by the author)
Imagine taking a boat to an island within visibility of one of the world’s busiest metropolises and suddenly finding yourself walking through a row of Victorian homes to a carnival that seems transported from the 19th century, with wooden carousels whirring and the sound of a calliope playing out over the trees.
This is what’s happening all summer on Governors Island in New York City, where Fête Paradiso has installed a festival of vintage French carnival rides. You can jump on one of the 28 hand-carved horses that soars up and down on the 1850 carousel, take a spin on the Flying Chairs (appearing for the first time in the United States), or have a drink in the beer garden set up in a bumper car pavilion from 1900. You can even ride on a iron and copper bicycle carousel from 1897. This “velocipedes” is one of only two bicycle carousels in the world (the other is in the Musée des Arts Forains in Paris, which Atlas Obscura rode in April), and was created when bicycle riding was still a novelty.
There are also clusters of non-functioning animals from old carousels roaming the area, as well as vintage games. They all come from the collection of Francis Staub and Regis Masclet, and are on tour for the first time. Actually, this is the first touring vintage carnival around, and after opening earlier this month it’s continuing through the end of September. Here are some more photographs from the summer outpost of the whimsical in the New York Harbor:
Fête Paradiso continues through September 29 in Nolan Park on Governors Island. Follow the carousel horses painted on the road after exiting the ferry. Entry to the festival is free, and each ride is $3.