Saturday, October 26, 2019

Indio Date Festival

I have three fun photos from Indio (in Riverside County), and the National Date Festival! They are undated, but likely from the 1950's. 

Date palms were introduced to Indio way back in the early 1900's, and in 1921 the first Date Festival was organized (though it wasn't an annual event yet). From what I've gleaned online, an "Arabian" theme was used from the earliest days, but it really gained prominence in 1948 when artist Louise Dardenelle and set designer Harry Oliver came up with the idea of an Arabian Nights pageant - "Prince Khudadad and the Shadow of Destiny". Now that's a title!

They were smart enough to hold the fair in February, and not in the summer, when temperatures in Indio could easily exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  The Date Festival offers many of the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of any county fair, but you also get to enjoy a ride on a camel, or maybe have a sweet creamy date shake. Yum!

Wow, look at that camel! He's funny looking, but as I have learned from countless Disney cartoons, it's what's inside that counts, and he is full of guts. I approve. 

My mom grew up in SoCal, and I asked her if she and her parents ever went to the Date Festival, and much to my surprise, she said "no". It seems like something that would have been right up their alley. Maybe it was too far away.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to The Riverside County Fair and Date Festival in Indio, California!


Nanook said...


I had no idea there were elephant "saddles" 'for a crowd'. (Right about now, someone at OSHA is having kittens over that contraption-!)

Thanks, Major.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Nanook, I was thinking the same thing - but you beat me to it. And with the way kids wiggle around, as we can see there, it's an accident waiting to happen!

Watch out for those camels!! (Don't they spit?!?!)

In that 2nd pic, is the lady (in navy blue, in the middle of the picture - between Little Sunshine and the Sheik), wearing saddle shoes?! :)

I've never had a date shake, but I've read some past GDB posts where people have commented that they are really good.

Thanks for today's trip back, Major!


Melissa said...

What better time for a date festival than right after Valentine's Day?

Chuck said...

I wonder if a date shake ever appealed to that date sheikh?

Andrew said...

I wonder what was in that Quonset in the background of the second pic?

"Lou and Sue" said...

Chuck, try saying that three times real fast!

"Lou and Sue" said...

Chuck, I also should've answered your question (but I just woke up and I'm slow today):

Yes, date sheikhs do drink date shakes daily.


stu29573 said...

Ok, at first glance I had this whole shootin' match in Idaho. Although dates are pretty common here in Texas (my dad had a big tree behind his house), I don't think they would do quite as well in Idaho. Then my brain did the un-jumble and all was clear! ...about this issue anyway...

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, even small kids can weigh a couple of hundred pounds when there’s seven or eight of them; hopefully it wasn’t much of a burden for a 5000 pound elephant.

Lou and Sue, the elephant contraption reminds me a bit of the old Stagecoaches at Disneyland, where people could sit on top with barely anything to hold them there. I’ve heard that camels spit, but maybe that’s when they’re being mistreated? I have no idea. I’ve never had a date shake either, but I like dates, and I like vanilla ice cream, so they have to be good.

Melissa, you make a valid point!

Chuck, it’s the question humans have been asking themselves since the beginning of time.

Andrew, I wish I could decipher that sword-sign on the quonset hut! I’ll just pretend that the hut is full of gold.

Lou and Sue, Chuck is famous for saying things really fast. And for inventing the ShamWow.

stu29573, I suppose I should have said “Riverside County, California”. There’s probably a Riverside in many states; I never would have thought about date farms in Idaho, however. I’m glad that all is clear now!

Sunday Night said...

Date shakes are super yummy. Unfortunately, it's been so many years since I had one. Used to stop at the Cabazon location of Hadley Date Orchards coming back from Palm Springs. Checking Google Maps I now see there is an In-N-Out just down the street! To think of an In-N-Out cheeseburger and a date shake...that would be the ultimate meal as far as I'm concerned.

Nanook said...

@ Sunday Night-
“...that would be the ultimate meal as far as I'm concerned. That could very well be true.

Warren Nielsen said...

Sunday Night mentions Hadley Date Orchards . . . my folks used to bring back dried apricots from there for me when they travelled down that direction. I loved 'em. And dad always had a date shake when he was there. He loved 'em. I tried a date once when I was a kid, and that one was more than enough, thank you very much. Maybe what I tried was not a good batch, but I have no desire to try again. Taste, texture or something has left a bad mark on my being.

I should find some dried 'cots, with lots of sulphur dioxide preservative on them. Yummy.


JC Shannon said...

I love hometown festivals like this. The lowly date is exalted to great heights, and a good time was had by all. The elephant in the pic looks a little long in the tooth and bored with all the kidlies. Celebrity alert, is that Sheikh Yerbouty with the camel? Thanks to Major for these cool scans.

Major Pepperidge said...

Sunday Night, yeah, there’s not a lot of places locally to me where you can get a date shake - it’s a desert treat (and a dessert treat!). Having one with an In-N-Out burger would be like heaven.

Nanook, I don’t go to In-N-Out nearly as much as I’d like, but every time I do go it is a real treat.

Warren Nielsen, it could just be that you don’t like dates… it happens. Or maybe, as you suggested, you just got some bad ones. There are different sorts of dates, and maybe the ones you had were dry or not as sweet. I wonder how a milkshake made with vanilla ice cream and dried apricots would taste??

Jonathan, yes, I like it when towns have a festival in honor of one thing, like garlic in Gilroy, or artichokes in Castroville, or strawberries in Oxnard. How can you tell if an elephant is old?? 27 extra points for a Frank Zappa reference.

"Lou and Sue" said...

While looking at this post, one last time before "calling it a day," I happen to recall my mom bringing home "packages" of dates stuffed with nuts (walnuts, if I recall correctly) from California/Disneyland trips, during the 1970's. And there was some kind of a nut roll, too - but my memory's not clear on exactly what was in it. I wonder if she purchased those from the Disneyland Hotel. Does anyone recall the hotel selling those? I guess the Chicago area didn't sell/offer much, in the way of tasty dates, back then?!

Major, I don't think that hut had gold in it. It probably proudly displayed all the local's crafts made from dates. Maybe even a few handmade quilts with date patterns on them.


Anonymous said...

I know we visited this Date Festival once when I was very young. I have a few pictures of the visit, but I don't remember much other than that we went there.

I do recall having a bit of Dad's date shake and loving it, in spite of not being a huge ice cream fan.

Sue, I remember those stuffed dates, we used to get them at the holidays in gift packs from the vendors that we bought from. Mom also used to make them, stuffed with blanched almonds (steam the almonds till the brown skin comes off, then brown in butter in the skillet).

She also made a holiday fruitcake that was mostly dates. I still have her recipe and make it every year for Christmas.

Dad loved dates and always bought some for Thanksgiving/Christmas. I was always amazed that he knew the different varieties by name and appearance, although we never raised any on the farm, of course.