Better Bets: “Fete Paradiso” on Governors Island

The Bumper Car Pavilion
All photos Isabelle Erb
(Click on images for full size views)

This summer, take a short ferry ride from lower Manhattan and you will find yourself immersed in French culture of a bygone era.  Beginning this weekend, and every weekend through September 29th, Nolan Park on Governors Island will be transformed into Fete Paradiso, a classic Parisian street festival featuring vintage carnival rides and attractions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The Pipe Organ

Opening just in time for Bastille Day weekend, the festival includes rare carnival artifacts, previously never seen before in the United States, from the collections of Frances Staub and Regis Masclet.  Mr. Staub originally considered creating a museum to display his treasured collection, but decided that a collection of this kind could not be truly appreciated in that type of venue.   After he met Mr. Masclet, another avid collector, the two men conceived the idea of a travelling festival that would allow the public to interact with the rides and attractions.  According to Mr. Masclet,  “Each carousel represents the technical innovations of a specific era,” so that visitors experience a “technical evolution” from 1850 to 1960.

The Bicycle Carousel

One of the classic rides dates back to 1897 and was previously installed near the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  The purpose of the carousel, one of only two of its kind in the world, was to familiarize the public at large with the bicycle.  At that time, bicycles were a new mode of transportation, primarily used only by the wealthy, who could afford riding lessons.  Like all carousels in France, the bicycle carousel runs counter clockwise. Other attractions at the festival include an automated pipe organ made in 1910 by the Limonaire brothers in Paris and the Great Horse Carousel, which was constructed in 1850, making it the oldest ride on display.  A wooden bumper car pavilion from 1900 serves as a beer garden and event space, serving food by New York’s popular French bistro, Le Gamin.

Fete Paradiso opens Saturday, July 13, and will be open every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 AM until 6:30 PM.  Admission is free and rides and games cost $3.00 each.  To celebrate the opening night of the festival, a Parisian Ball, presented by Babel New York, will be held on July 13th, beginning at 4PM.  For tickets, visit

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– Rhonda Erb

Rhonda Erb

Rhonda Erb writes about fashion, travel and lifestyle from a New Yorker’s perspective in Better Bets. A self-confessed Instagram addict, her work has also appeared in such publications as Runway Magazine. Follow her at: Instagram: @betterbets Twitter: @betterbetsny tumblr:

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