Record-Breaking Return of the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival presented by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino
It's a Date for the record books as the 2023 Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival presented by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino completed its 10-day run in Indio yesterday, following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic.
"The community came together to celebrate the very best in Riverside County for the first time since 2020 with Blue Ribbon competitions, community performances, and date-laden treats," said Chris Pickering, Principal Partner of the Fairgrounds' new operator Pickering Events LLC. "This year marked the return of the Fair & Date Fest; future years will see its growth." The County of Riverside signed a 5-year agreement with Pickering Events to operate the 91-acre Riverside County Fairgrounds in June of 2022, following a competitive bid process.
Among other traditions, the 2023 Fair & Date Fest saw the return of the Junior Livestock Auction, raising over $248,000 for local youth who collectively sold 187 project animals on Saturday. More than 2,000 students participated in free school tours of the event's exhibit halls and received free tickets to return to the Fair & Date Fest. New this year, Pickering Events partnered with long-time carnival operator for the Fair & Date Fest, Butler Amusements, and The Bailey-Findley Foundation to award $24,000 in scholarships to 14 graduating high school seniors throughout Riverside County. Students from 17 high schools participated in the program.
Butler Amusements set an all-time record on Sunday, February 19th and experienced its three highest days of ridership in its 20-plus years of history with the Fair & Date Fest. The Giant Wheel, Exscream Machine, and Hawaiian Express thrilled the most guests, while younger audiences enjoyed the return of the separated Kids Carnival.
Guests treated themselves to their favorite fair foods along with new delicacies as they grazed their way through this year's event, driving a 10% increase in food sales over the 2020 event. This year's menu included Date Shakes, Bacon Wrapped Dates, Milk Tea with Date syrup, Date Nut Bars, Date Tea, Date Brownies, Date Parfait, Date BBQ Sauces, Date Hot Sauce, and a variety of locally-grown Coachella Valley Dates. The Cooking Channel's "Carnival Eats" production crew spent four days filming tasty treats for three episodes that will air this summer.
Crowds mirroring pre-pandemic numbers were impressive considering last week's storms and weekend rain. Sea Lions, Camel Rides, Pony Rides, Racing Pigs, Pirate Shows, Hypnotist, Pageant performers, and numerous community groups added to the public's enjoyment and to celebrate with family and friends and make lifelong memories. Singer-songwriter Pancho Barraza, Mariachi Sol de Mexico, and The Fray drew the largest concert crowds, and the PRCA Rodeo, Demo Derby, and Monster Trucks packed the Grandstand Arena.
"The tremendous turnout for the Date Festival is a testament to how important this event is to our community," said Supervisor V. Manuel Perez of Riverside County's District 4. "Pickering Events did a great job producing the festival for the first time which offered something for everyone reflecting the diversity of our Coachella Valley. We are so pleased to be a partner with them."
The Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival presented by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino will return February 16-25, 2024.