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New Yorkers to sample French rides, amusements of old

NEW YORK CITY: New Yorkers, said to always embrace the next new thing, will have a chance this summer to sample rides and amusements enjoyed by fun seekers a century ago.

Beginning this weekend and running through September 29, the inaugural Fete Paradiso fair will recreate the festival from a long bygone era. These include such attractions as a vintage French bicycle carousel and a meticulously restored pipe organ.

The first fair takes place on New York's Governor's Island this Saturday - one day before France's Bastille Day national holiday - and features a dozen rides and attractions populas from around 1850 to 1950. The antique attractions belong to two avid collectors of French fairground arts.

French native Francis Staub made his fortune manufacturing cast iron casserole pots that bear his name. The other collector, Regis Masclet, was a successful advertising executive in Rennes who now spends his time restoring antique rides.

“These are all collectors' items,” Masclet told AFP.

“For example, we have a rare ride - a velocipede - which runs by pedaling. It was built in the late 19th century to promote cycling, at the time horses disappeared from cities,” he explained.

Masclet and Staub launched the idea for their antique fun fair 18 months ago, presenting it to various cities around the world, among them Berlin and London, but New York agreed to it first.

Organizers said other cities around the United States are likely to follow suit.

“We would like to continue the tour on the west coast and back to New York if it works,” said Tristan Duval, who heads Community, a French organization dedicated to promoting tourism and the arts, which is staging the event.

Fete Paradiso also will feature carnival-style foods provided by the bistro Le Gamin, organizers said.

Duval said he is not expecting to make a profit on the New York fair, but hopes that word of mouth will help make it a popular at future venues where it is mounted.

The festival is part of a sweeping effort rehabilitate Governor's Island, a former military base of 70 acres located off the southern tip of Manhattan, accessible to the public only on weekends, and then, only by ferry.

The New York mayor's office - known for its activism in supporting the arts - took over management of the Governor's Island in 2010, and has a plan to to invest 250 million dollars in the massive renovation project. Several festivals and artistic events have been organized in the refurbished park.

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