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Dates, Music, & Camel Races: Date Festival Kicks off in Indio

Head to the annual Riverside County Fair for the signature shakes, galloping ostriches, and rides

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Any fair worth its weight in corndogs knows that folks love serious fair food—and a certain annual fair in Indio ups the ante with its beloved underdog fruit.

Date palms have flourished in the Coachella Valley since the early 20th century, and the 72nd Annual Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival kicks off February 16 with the Blessing of the Dates, followed by a parade of floats and equestrians through Indio on Presidents Day. While the 10-day festival (Feb. 16–25) features classic rides, fried Twinkies, and a queen, the centerpiece is the humble date, which is praised and prepped in the fair’s almost-daily cooking demonstrations.

Don’t miss the chance to try the fair’s signature snack, the cold-and-creamy date shake; this year, vendor Fabe’s has created a decadent version topped with a slice of cheesecake. For more date-oriented treats, stroll the fair’s vendors and try bacon-wrapped dates, Pink’s Cheesy-Bacon-Dater-Tots, or the Date Funnel Cake at Backyard BBQ.

In between snacksenjoy music headliners Lou Gramm of Foreigner fame (with opener Foghat), acclaimed norteño band Los Rieleros Del Norte, country star Chase Rice, and classic rock band War.

Certainly, the fair makes the most of the Coachella Valley’s desert ambience. The annual Camel & Ostrich Races are always a big hit (don’t laugh: those ostriches can hustle up to 40 mph), as is the nightly musical pageant, a take on 1001 Arabian Nights (be on the lookout too for the fair’s reigning Queen Scheherazade and her court). There are also modern-desert-rodeo attractions such as monster trucks, motocross, and bull-riding.

Indio is a year-round hotbed for great parties—foodie and otherwise. December brings the Indio International Tamale Festival, and April is the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Check out our lists of other great California food festivals and music festivals

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