BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | Under the tall, old trees of Nolan Park on Governors Island, an enchanted tableau unfolds this summer, transporting visitors back to late 19th century and early 20th century Europe. The world’s first festival of vintage carnival rides and carousels has been installed among Nolan Park’s 19th century houses.
A beautifully carved pipe organ dating from 1910 provides the sound track for the gaily-painted horses; the dragon ride, with its careening metal cars; and the bicycle carousel. That one dates from 1897 and is one of two still in existence. When it was built, bicycles were a novelty and many people were afraid to ride them. The bicycle carousel allowed them to get comfortable with this new mode of transportation. For $3 a ride, Governors Island visitors can have the same experience.
There are several children’s carousels. One that is particularly charming has carved figurines of old-fashioned cars and airplanes (the latest thing when it was built), cartoon characters and animals.
The oldest carousel in the Governors Island installation dates from 1850 and has 28 jumping horses.
The phantasmagoria of Fete Paradiso belong to Francis Staub and Regis Masclet, both passionate collectors of vintage carnival rides and carousels.
In the middle of Nolan Park, restaurateur Robert Arbor of Le Gamin is serving classic French bistro food in a bumper car pavilion from 1900. The menu includes croque monsieur, grilled vegetables, salads, mussels, hamburgers, sausage, steak and chicken priced from $5 to $15. Wine by the glass is $6 to $10.
Fete Paradiso opened on July 13 at 10:30 a.m. and will be open until 6:30 p.m. every weekend through Sept. 29. Admission is free. On opening day, it rained for a while, but no one seemed to mind. Umbrellas came out and then were put away. Through it all, the gleeful shrieks of kids and adults having a fantastic, old-fashioned time continued.
Free ferries to Governors Island leave from the Battery Maritime Building on South Street in Manhattan and from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 at the foot of Atlantic Avenue.