NEW YORK (AP) — The Statue of Liberty is France's famous gift to New York City, a symbol of independence and the ties between two countries that fought for freedom.
This summer, the French connection is being rekindled under Lady Liberty's gaze as the world's first festival of rare French carnival rides and carousels makes its American debut on Governors Island.
"Fete Paradiso" opens to the public on Saturday, which begins the weekend celebration of France's Bastille Day. The carnival rides, which date back from as early as 150 years ago, will be available for New Yorkers to enjoy on weekends throughout the summer.
The vintage attractions at Fete Paradiso include "Velocipedie," an 1897 bicycle carousel that's one of only two left in existence, and a 1910 stand-alone pipe organ built by famed Parisian craftsmen, the Limonaire brothers. Many are impressive feats of 19th-century engineering — the Great Horse Carousel, dating back to 1850, features 28 'jumper' horses that move up and down and appear to be galloping.
Other attractions include French-inspired musical performances, games and a bumper car pavilion that has been transformed into a French bistro and beer garden. Nolan Park, surrounded by Governors Island's colonial buildings, is decorated with French flags and strings of lights hanging from tree branches.
"The festival is not only about nostalgia," said Tristan Duval, one of the festival's organizers. "It's about curiosity, knowing that that spirit is not lost."
The rare rides come from two private collections and until recently were sitting unused in warehouses in France. Originally the collections' owners contemplated the idea of a museum but decided that the carousels deserved to be enjoyed, and Fete Paradiso was born.
"As valuable as they are, the best way to enjoy them is to ride them," Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island, said of the carousels.
Kate Hambrecht, from Jersey City, was visiting the festival during a media preview with her husband Patrick and3-year-old son Luther. "It's definitely better than Six Flags. When you're out on the rides there's just so much green space. It's beautiful," she said.
Sunday is Bastille Day, which marks the 1789 storming of the Bastille, where political prisoners were held in France. It was a key moment in the French Revolution.
Ferries to Governors Island and entrance to the festival are free, and rides cost $3.
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