Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival

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Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival
Magic Carpet Stage at Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival (2012).jpg
The Magic Carpet Stage hosts many of fair's performances
Genre County fair, Fair
Date(s) 9 days (mid-to-late February)
Frequency Annually
Location(s) Indio, California
Years active 67 (at Riverside County Fairgrounds) [1]
Inaugurated 1921 (1921) (at Indio City Park) [1]
Attendance 300,000+ (2012) [2]
Organised by Riverside County Economic Development Agency [2]
Website
www.datefest.org [2]
[1][2]

The Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival takes place in Indio, California. Since 1947 the annual festival has been held to celebrate the Date Palm harvest in the Coachella Valley. The event is held in February on the Riverside County Fairgrounds.

The Coachella Valley has about 250,000 date palms are planted on approximately 5,000 acres (20 km2) which produces 35,000,000 pounds of dates annually.[3] The agricultural industry is responsible for 95 percent of the nation's crop.[4]

The Date Festival has more than 7000 exhibits and competitions related to the fruit. It has grown to feature musicians and comedians, a Date Festival Queen and her court, monster trucks and bull-riding.[4] The Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival is located in Indio, California, a city in the Colorado Desert, approximately 130 miles (210 km) east from Los Angeles.

History[edit]

The Fair started as a festival to celebrate the end of the annual date harvest in the desert region, the major commercial date-producing area in the Western Hemisphere. Dates were an unknown commodity in the desert until 1903 when date palms were transplanted there from Algeria. By the early 1920s dates became a major crop for the area. Date groves in the Coachella Valley also became tourist attractions.

With the popularity of the date gardens the idea was planted for the first Date Festival in 1921 to be held in Indio's city park. A second festival was held the following year. Some 16 years later a third Date Festival was held, this time under the name of the Riverside County Fair and the Coachella Valley Date Festival. The Indio Civic Club, under contract from the County Board of Supervisors, sponsored the event.

That year there were 72 booths exhibited and attendance reached 5,000. It was also the first year the street parade was staged. In 1936 Western themes were in style and the Fair took on a Western theme complete with wiskerenos, cowboy hats, and rodeo events.

In 1940 the County purchased the present fairgrounds. The original 40 acres (160,000 m2) cost $10,000 and over the years later the grounds were expanded with the purchase of an additional 40 acres (160,000 m2) including the date grove on the fairgrounds. Presently, the fairgrounds cover 120 acres (0.49 km2).

When World War II started all fairs in California were halted. When the War ended, Robert M.C. Fullenwider was hired to manage the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival. Fullenwider introduced an "Arabian Nights" theme tying in with the desert region and date industry.

Pageant[edit]

A fair vendor selling dates at the festival during the 1950s

Also, tying into this theme, the Fair has a scholarship pageant called "Queen Scheherazade". Students from Riverside County compete to win the scholarship money for continued education and act as the "good will" ambassador over the Fair.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Fair Fun Pg3-DATEFACTS.pdf
  2. ^ a b c d Riverside County Fair and Date Festival
  3. ^ The History Of Dates
  4. ^ a b Checking out the Coachella Valley - Palm Springs, California
  5. ^ This name came from the story "1001 Nights". Early storytellers of Baghdad say that there was once a jealous king named Shahriyar, who dearly loved his beautiful wife. But, unfortunately, he discovered that she was unfaithful. So he promptly had her beheaded. The King vowed he would remarry and the morning following his wedding night his bride would be slain. The task of finding the King a new wife each day was turned over to the Grand Vizier (Chief of Police). It so happened that the Vizier was the father of two of the most beautiful women in the land-Scheherazade and Dunyazade. Shocked at what was happening to her sister citizens, Scheherazade begged her father to take her as a bride to the king. At first the Vizier refused, but Scheherazade argued that eventually her time would come. And so it was, that the king met "Scheherazade", a comedian and great storyteller. On their wedding night Scheherazade started the Tale of 1001 Nights, but she was unable to finish it. She promised to do so the next evening. Intensely interested, the king agreed. However, the next night, Scheherazade again stopped her story as it reached an exciting point. Again, the King agreed to a continuance. And so it went for 1001 nights, until the King fell deeply in love with Scheherazade and they lived happily ever after.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°42′45″N 116°13′22″W / 33.71250°N 116.22278°W / 33.71250; -116.22278