Have a 'date' or watch an ostrich race at the Riverside County Fair and National Date Fest (Photos)

55390 full

The 67th annual Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival is in full swing in Indio.

Event spokeswoman Veronica Casper says the inland fair takes place this time of year – instead of summer or fall, when most counties schedule theirs – mainly because of the weather.

“This time of the year the weather is actually pleasant," she said. "If it was in the summer time, we would probably get less people. It’s just way too hot.”

Casper says early Riverside County Fairs marked the end of the date harvest season in February. Now, farmers in the Coachella Valley grow the fruit year-round and produce about 95 percent of the nation’s dates.

Fairgoers can enjoy carnival rides, deep-fried midway cuisine and a petting zoo, along with exotic animal races.

Joe Hedrick raises ostriches, camels, zebras and giraffes at an exotic animal farm in Knickerson, Kansas. For more than three decades his critters have entertained crowds at the Riverside County Fair.

A century ago, early editions of Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses featured ostrich races. Hedrick said he’s helping to maintain that long Southland tradition.

"My earliest knowledge would be back in the 40’s that a gentleman from California here started racing ostriches and he was a guy that provided a lot of animals for the movies, a guy by the name of Gene Holter," Hedrick said.

Hedrick said ostriches can handle the weight of the jockeys – who never weigh more than 150 pounds each – because of the strength in their legs. The birds can run up to 40 miles an hour.

There’ll be post times for the big birds, zebras and camels at the Inland fair every day through next weekend.

blog comments powered by Disqus