This right here might be my favorite thing in NYC this summer. Governor’s Island is the first American stop for this rare collection of 19th and 20th century French vintage carnival rides and Fete Paradiso is every bit as charming as it looks. Even the background music of accordions and the mix of occasional cuts from the Amelie soundtrack that’s pumped in through the speakers adds to the atmosphere. I often think that attendants dressed in costume can be overdone (like in the Punk: Chaos to Couture show at the Met), but everything just works here, right down to the roped off pavilion where you can sit under strung lights and chandeliers and order food from the French cafe, Le Gamin.
The vintage rides are truly spectacular and it’s amazing that they’re still functional. You almost have to keep reminding yourself of just how old these rides really are and it seems like a privilege to be able to take a ride on museum quality pieces of art. Maybe the most glaring reminder that these date back to the 19th and 20th century is that the rides don’t have seat belts. The girls rode one dragon ride that went quite fast, backwards and forwards, and as they took off I heard them yell, “but where are the seeeeeatbelts!!!”
Fete Paradiso runs on Governor’s Island until September 29.