Date Festival celebrates 65th anniversary

This year marks 65th Anniversary of Festival

by Michael Gonzalez
Section Editor 
Penelope Cassasa winning her prize at the Fair (Sofie Cassasa/The Chaparral).

The Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio made its debut back in 1947.  The region’s landmark event, which originated as a date market, began Feb. 17 and ran through Feb. 26. The Festival is now a cultural phenomenon, with additional attractions such as animal racing, carnival rides and a concert venue.  Today, the festival’s unique brand of entertainment includes a demolition derby, camel and ostrich races and a monster truck show.

Among the regularly scheduled features each year are Hypnotist Suzy Haner and ‘Queen Scheherazade and her court’.  Haner is a professional hypnotherapist who entertains at the festival using audience participation. Under hypnosis, volunteers sometimes act as if they are famous celebrities, such as Lindsey Lohan or Pamela Anderson.

The Queen Scheherazade Pageant has been a keystone event since the festival’s inception. It has evolved to include a scholarship program, in which winners may receive a grant worth between $3000 to $3500.

College of the Desert has provided students with special offers through the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) and the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) programs, which participated in advanced ticket sales.

The entertainment lineup for this year’s festival included Leann Rimes, Hot Chelle Rae and Uncle Kracker. Country/pop singer, Leann Rimes, known for her single “Blue” performed on Feb. 18.  The second weekend, Hot Chelle Rae is performed their singles, “I Like It Like That” and “Tonight, Tonight”  on Feb. 24th.  Uncle Kracker, known for his hit singles “Smile,” “Follow Me” and “Drift Away”  performed on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Festival promoters also offered opening day free admission Feb. 17, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.  A two-week season pass to the Date Festival was only $20.  For more information about The Riverside County Fair and Date Festival, visit

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