By Crystal Harrell
The fall season has finally arrived, and a festive new way to celebrate the season is haunting its way through the Coachella Valley this October. The Riverside County SCARE & Pumpkin Festival will take place at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, starting on September 29 and lasting through the end of October.
“When we first took over operations here at the Riverside County Fairgrounds last July, we asked everyone in the community what was the one thing they wish was in the valley that wasn’t right now, and 100% across the board said a pumpkin patch. And so we’re very excited to be able to provide a pumpkin patch in addition to a haunted house and the heavily themed hangout area in general for the fall season,” shared Chris Pickering, Fairgrounds manager and CEO of Pickering Events LLC.
Merging the playful mystique of Halloween with the rich traditions of the Day of the Dead, the team that brought you the 2023 Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival presented by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino welcomes the public to visit a magical town in the spirit world featuring an immersive experience in three gorgeous themed realms.
The Plaza Fantazma area is a haven for family-friendly fun, with a pumpkin patch that boasts seasonal delicacies and a picture-perfect town square alive with a festival of friendly ghosts. Nestled within Plaza Fantazma is also an ofrenda, a community altar allowing locals to pay tribute to departed loved ones.
“Being out here in the desert, it’s still a bit warm in October. And so we’re able to have those pumpkins indoors, where they wouldn’t survive for very long outdoors just because of the heat. And of course, you’re able to get the people inside the air conditioning as well. So we’re not subject to the weather,” explained Pickering.
Cantina Calacas is the perfect place for guests to sip on festive brews, where skeletons celebrate Oktoberfest in a haunting desert oasis like no other, where every toast echoes with spirited laughter.
Carnival Carnivore is home to the “beast who feasts!” This heart-pounding haunted house for thrill-seekers aged 16 and up promises unforgettable surprises—designed by the creative producer responsible for groundbreaking immersive Halloween experiences like CreepLA, I Want To Live In Your Mouth and Blackout 10th Anniversary.
“The Riverside County SCARE & Pumpkin Festival is designed to be a family friendly event.
Everything inside the main area is family friendly. Of course it does have Halloween themes but nothing’s going to pop out unexpectedly. But for those who are brave enough to go into the haunted house, that is a completely sectioned off area. It doesn’t interfere with the family friendly fun at all, but we do recommend those who are going to the haunted house to be 16 or older,” said Pickering.
The 91-acre Riverside County Fairgrounds has a rich history of hosting eclectic, community-centric events, ranging from multi-day extravaganzas to intimate gatherings. The Riverside County SCARE & Pumpkin Festival is sure to join the ranks as a beloved holiday event grounded in the spirit of the Coachella Valley community.
“We’ve worked with cultural consultants, one of which is from UC Riverside and making sure that we’re delivering an authentic view of a cultural experience.That includes an element where community members can add notes to their departed loved ones and add to the overall ofrenda that is inside the event. Just like the Date Festival itself, we’re looking to have the community reflected in all of the aspects that occur within the SCARE & Pumpkin Festival,” stated Pickering.
To purchase tickets and to see a complete list of event times, visit https://datefest.org.