INDIO, Calif. -

The 68th Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival kicked off Friday, welcoming families for the 10-day event. The fair runs through Feb. 23.

Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor John Benoit helped open the festival, with the Shadow Hills High School chamber singers who sang the national anthem.

Queen Jasmine Valenzuela, 3, of Coachella was selected and honored to be the first festival goer to walk through the gates of the fairgrounds this year.

The fair pays tribute to the Coachella Valley's date-growing industry and has a Middle Eastern theme, including the Queen Scheherazade Scholarship Pageant, camel races and date-focused cuisine.

The fair starts on the day King Abdullah II of Jordan is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage.

Veterans can also get into the fair for free, along with as many as three guests, as part of the county's VALOR program.

Proof of military service and residence in Riverside County will be required.

Some of the fair's highlights include:

-- Today: The Fourth District Youth Advisory Council will coordinate the annual High School Competition, where teams from local schools compete in a series of contests starting at 5 p.m. The winning team will receive the Date Cup trophy -- to be displayed at school for a year -- and tickets to the fair.

-- Saturday: A date recipe contest is scheduled at 2 p.m., and rock band Daughtry will perform at 7:30 in the concert pavilion.

 -- Sunday: The Riverside County Amateur Vocal Contest is at noon, a ``cooking with dates'' demonstration at 1:30 p.m. and Los Tucanes de Tijuana will perform at 7:30.

-- Monday: It's Veterans' Appreciation Day at the fair, with the annual President's Day parade at 9 a.m. led by grand marshal Lt. Gen. Herbert R. Temple Jr., a Korean War veteran and Palm Desert resident. The Battle of the Bands starts at 4 p.m., and actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band will perform at 5.

-- Tuesday: It's Canada Day, and all Canadian residents will be admitted free with proof of residence.

-- Feb. 21: Five For Fighting will perform at 7:30 p.m., and

-- Feb. 22: Kool and the Gang will perform at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, call (760) 863-8247 or go to www.datefest.org.