By Crystal Harrell

The February tradition of the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival is back with a ten-day event sponsored by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. The festival originated as a way to celebrate the end of the annual date harvest. This year, the Fair expects to welcome 250,000 guests who will eagerly set foot onto the 91-acre venue to enjoy pig races, stilt walkers, date tasting (including date beer), livestock shows, blue ribbon competitions, PRCA Pro-Rodeo, Monster Trucks, Demo Derby and carnival rides with everything from a giant roller coaster to the topsy-turvy zipper, operated by Butler Amusements.

Numerous enhancements have been added, including a sophisticated new security system that screens guests quickly and hassle-free, keeping families safe especially after hours when the midway starts bustling. Online ticket purchasing and automated kiosks at the entrance gates also keep foot traffic moving.

“We increased our grounds entertainment budget by 50% this year and so we’re just really activating more fun and more to do. You’ll see some favorite things come back that maybe weren’t here last year, like a family stage with a magician and ventriloquist and then also the cooking with dates stage has come back as well. We’re expanding the things that we started last year, like the date tasting booth is now back in a larger format with some really exciting date treats to try. In addition, last year we’d encourage all of our food vendors to have at least one date item. This year we’ve required it. So no matter where you go, you’re going to be able to find something tasty made with dates,” shared fairground event manager Chris Pickering.


The live entertainment at this year’s festival features Smash Mouth in concert on Friday, February 16 and Diamond Rio on Monday, February 19. Natasha Bedingfield will also grace the Main Stage on February 17th, with special guest David Hernandez. Tickets are now on sale.

The Date Festival pageant, “One Arabian Night: A Magical Musical Romp” will entertain Fair audiences throughout the week. “We’re vert excited to have the pageant. There is a new director this year, Ken Prescott, who’s highly credentialed and we’re very excited to see him working, of course with local youth as well to put on that production,” stated Pickering.

There are numerous competitions scheduled, with winners receiving cash prizes, in areas including photography, gem and mineral, fine arts, dairy goats, sheep, baked food and confections, and fashion.

A new attraction this year is “Out of the Fair Day,” celebrating LGBTQ+ family friendly activities. Join Landa Plenty as she hosts from 1pm to 4pm in The Shalimar Building for Drag Bingo with co-host Shania Satisfaction! Reserve your seat today for $15 OR purchase yours day-of for $20 with Venmo or cash. This event will sell out quickly as 75% of the seats are on sale, presale is encouraged. Your reserved seat lasts for the full 3 hours of Bingo play! This year’s prizes include gift cards, OATF Merch, a 4K TV, and 2 pairs of tickets to see Natasha Bedingfield & David Hernandez. You must be 18+ to play bingo and 21+ to enjoy the bar.

And, as part of a 75-year tradition, $20,000 will be distributed to the colleges of ten scholarship winners. Based on an application process requiring 3.0 GPA, each awarded student

will receive $2,000 to pursue studies beyond high school, thanks to the generosity of Butler

Amusements and Pickering Events. Winners will also each receive a season pass to the Date Fest.

“When you’re a kid living at home, you might not be plugged into how important community is, but a lot of the students who have applied have a really profound and deep understanding of the importance of community and how it really takes everyone coming together. I think maybe the pandemic kind of shaped a lot of that for for these students who were maybe just entering high school at the time or in middle school,” said Pickering.

The festival is runs for 10 days starting February 16th and ending the 25th. For the best possible deal, guests can purchase tickets online at for 12 dollars compared to 15 dollars admission at the gate. Discounts will no longer be available once the festival starts. National Date Festival offices will be open the12th through the 15th, selling tickets onsite as well.