J’Adore a Vintage French Carnival: Fête Paradiso

After working ten days at the New York State Fair, I felt done with carnivals for at least a decade. I was all carnival-ed out. Then an event on Governor’s Island, the haven just 5 minutes from the coast of Manhattan, made me reconsider. Easily the best decision I’ve made since the one to go boating in Central Park.


Fête Paradiso, the world’s first festival of vintage French carnival rides and carousels, makes its American debut on Governors Island.” I read this first sentence on the Governor’s Island calendar of events and it was all I needed to hear. That’s just the kind of girl I am: Amelie is the only legit movie I own, I adore macarons, and I rock a red beret with some frequency. J’adore. I invited two ladies who share my interests, my lovely friends Meg and Rose. 

We ran off to Governor’s Island with such excitement, such joie d’vivre, I didn’t even look up where on the island the carnival was located! The island must have anticipated this because these jolie markers painted the way.
carousel arrowPipe organ music wafted through the air, reaching our ears just as the scene became visible in the distance. I felt giddy, the way I had at age seven when going to a small town carnival with my cousin. I wasn’t exactly sure what was in store but my expectations were high.


C’est incroyable, my expectations were met, even exceeded.


Charm, whimsy, and delight permeated every sun-drenched pathway. In this Paradiso paradise, even cautionary signs are adorable.

I don’t think my smile once drifted from my face. There was happiness in the air. People were even content to wait in line- outrageous for New Yorkers! I didn’t see one person looking impatient or cross, heard no crying from frustrated children. Much credit to the employees. All outfitted in festive stripes and kerchiefs, they seemed genuinely happy to be working here. What a world of difference that makes, it enhanced the whole atmosphere!


All the rides and games were from the late 19th or early 20th centuries. This one is called the Music-Hall Ball Guzzler! The wood figures are caricatures of celebrities of the period. You can just make out Charlie Chaplin fourth from the left. The object is to get them to guzzle a ball, throw it in their mouths! Before even knowing the hilarious name of the game I found it quite amusing to watch.

The three of us decided we wanted to go on one ride. Just one, so we had to choose carefully.


This carousel was immediately out of the running as it was completely child-size! You must be this short to ride this ride!


We all agreed on the Velocipedes. Created in 1892, this carousel was designed to promote the new mode of transportation in Paris and encourage people to give bicycles a try! In 2013 everyone wanted to give it a try, even people who already had bicycles themselves!


Along with a motor, our pushing of the pedals propelled this ride. It was wacky to be on a bicycle that is 121 years old! Far superior to any modern-day spinning class, let me tell you.


Trés chic, non?
I had such a wonderful time, I am tempted to go back this weekend. Or the weekend after! Two more weekends to experience this wonderful event! Unfortunately, I’m afraid I don’t have the time to go again. But you should go and then I can live vicariously through you! Tit for tat, or as the French say, rendre la pareille!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

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