Date Festival connection to the Middle East

INDIO, Calif. - There's a traditional Arabic saying, "There are as many uses for a date palm as there are days in a year."

Thus the basis of its appeal back in 1890.   

"Through the United States Department of Agriculture, they came here as a project. They tried to grow dates in Needles, California, came here and found the Coachella valley was the best place to grow dates," Mark Goulet from Shield's Date Garden's said. 

Particularly, medjool dates are popular here. 

"It's a middle eastern word that means twist. As it grows, it twists on the vine," he said. 

Growing 95 percent of the country's dates -  Coachella Valley History Museum Historian Patricia Laflin said it was a pretty good reason to start a date festival in 1921. 

"Bob Fullenwider, who was the manager of the festival right after the war, thought the Arabian nights theme would tie in nicely with the dates here," Laflin said. 

So, every year, the county held a pageant to choose a court, including a Queen Sheherazade. 

"An old story teller told the story back in Baghdad. A woman named Queen Sheherazade would tell the king a story every night to save the lives of future women," Kimberly Douglas from the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival said. 

A simple story, bringing major celebration of the middle eastern culture every year - but particularly now. 

"My husband and I visited Jordan in 1995 and sold date off-shoots to King Abdulluh who was then Prince Abdulluh, and we got to visit the farm where they were planted in the Jordan Valley," Laflin said. 

"It's fantastic timing. We  are thrilled to have him here. We would love to have them come to opening day ceremonies," Douglas said. 

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