The Helter Skelter or SkySlide.  Photo: Courtesy Morgan Ommer/TGEC
The Helter Skelter or SkySlide. Photo: Courtesy Morgan Ommer/TGEC

The AIA Great European Carnival raised eyebrows when it first started to take shape inside Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront Event Space.

The city hadn’t really ever before seen the quintessentially European mix of traditional carnival favourites, the carousel and the helter skelter, with modern thrill-seeking rides such as the 50m high Mach 5 and swinging Oblivion spread out over a space that sits bang in the heart of the city.

“We knew the space was perfect for an event of this scale and tradition,” says Michael Denmark, TGEC’s founder and CEO. “And the Hong Kong public seemed to share our opinion.”

Now back until February 12 for its third edition – having welcomed around a million visitors in each of its previous incarnations – TGEC again features carnival traditions brought to Asia by event partners of the Manning organization ilk – people who can trace their own connection with this style of entertainment right back to the 1850s.

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But there are nods everywhere to entertainment traditions currently evolving – so visitors have the event’s own version of the car pool karaoke, opportunities to experience 360-degree photos usually reserved for Hollywood red carpets and numerous amusing groupings of vikings, pirates and European landmarks for selfies to satisfy them.

“We’ve watched, listened and learned from our customers and we think we have found the right formula for what audiences are after, around the region,” says Denmark.

That means there are more tests of skill, and hopes of winning one of the many toys recognisable from cartoons and movies over the past 50 years.

“Everyone likes to take something home,” says Denmark. “The thrill of winning a prize is universal and the desire here in Hong Kong is as passionate as ever.”