74th County Fair and Date Festival begins in Indio

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Diane Sieker photo

Following months of preparation, the 74th Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival opened its doors to the public Friday, Feb. 14, for a 10-day run.

The opening ceremony and the Blessing of the Dates began at 9:30 a.m. The fair runs until Feb. 23.

Cinnamon rolls, funnel cakes and deep-fried Twinkies are among the classic food fare that will be available throughout the festivities, culminating in the main attraction tonight with the musical “Aladdin: The Magician Remembers” featured on the pageant stage.

Children can enjoy the daily morning petting zoo, as well as dozens of different games, rides and activities for children of all ages.

Concerts are included with fair admission. I Love the 90s will play Friday, Feb. 21; Chris Jansen is set for Saturday, Feb. 22, and Mariachi Sol de Mexico takes the stage Sunday, Feb. 23.

The first remnants of the county fair go back to 1921, when the International Festival of Dates was held to celebrate the annual date harvest in the Coachella Valley, which is a major date producing hub in the United States.

According to organizers, dates arrived locally by way of Algeria in 1903. By the 1920s, dates were a major crop in the area.

From 1921 to the World War II era, the date festival and the later renamed Riverside County Fair and the National Date Festival, came and went until 1941, when crews broke ground on a permanent fairground in Indio. Construction stalled during the war, but by the late 1940s, the fair became an annual staple in the Coachella Valley.

Adult tickets are $11, seniors are $10 and children are $9. Carnival tickets are sold separately.

The Riverside County Fairgrounds is at 82-503 Highway 111 in Indio.

For a complete schedule or to purchase tickets, visit www.datefest.org.