Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival begins

Traditional "blessing of the dates" opens event

KESQ's Jeremy Chen launched 200 feet int

INDIO, Calif. - The 71st annual Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival opens in Indio today, featuring carnival rides, a President's Day parade, pageantry, live music and more.

From Feb. 17 to Feb. 26, the Riverside County Fairgrounds will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, opening today with the traditional ``blessing of the dates.''

The annual fair will feature many time-honored attractions, such as the Arabian Nights theme, which pays tribute to the Coachella Valley's date-growing industry and is represented through the Queen Scheherazade Scholarship Pageant, camel races and date-focused cuisine.

The President's Day Grand Parade will be held as usual, this time with actor Joe Mantegna and Lt. Col. Robert Friend, one of the oldest surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, serving as grand marshals. A fly-over with an original P-51 D Mustang, the type of place that Lt. Col. Friend flew in World War II, will accompany the parade.

New attractions include Robosaurus, the world's largest car-crushing transformer, a special celebrity guest appearance at the annual Demolition Derby, and several new rides, including the White Water Flume Ride and 100-foot high Vertigo towers.

Live music will be provided by Cheap Trick, War, The Eli Young Band, Voz de Mando, and more.

Entry is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $8 for kids between 6 and 12 years old, and free for kids 5 and under. Veterans can also get in free with proper ID, and bring in three guests also free of charge.

Unlimited carnival ride passes are between $25 and $28.

Tickets may be purchased at the gate or online at

Several promotions will be in effect throughout the festival, including special discount days and free admission for the first two hours on Feb. 17.

For more information, go to .

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