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

Riverside County Fair

Ashley Bailey

The 67th annual Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival continues in Indio through February 24.

Riverside County Fair

Ashley Bailey

Date milkshakes are a specialty at the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival. Farmers in the Coachella Valley produce 95 percent of the dates in the U.S.

Riverside County Fair

Ashley Bailey/KPCC

Joe Hedrick, of Knickerson, Kansas, is president of Hedrick Promotions and Exotic Animal Farm. He travels with 30 people year-round to put on ostrich, camel and zebra races at fairs around the country. He got into the business through his dad, who was a rodeo clown.

Riverside County Fair

Ashley Bailey

Jockeys with Hedrick Exotic Animal Farms demonstrate how they use ostriches to race metal chariots at the Riverside County Fair in Indio.

Riverside County Fair

Ashley Bailey

Jockeys with Hedrick Exotic Animal Farms lead zebras out in front of the grandstands to race at the Riverside County Fair.

Riverside County Fair

Ashley Bailey

A jockey with Hedrick Exotic Animal Farms chases after his ostrich during a show at the Riverside County Fair. The fairgrounds hosts ostrich races, as well as camel and zebra races, daily through Feb. 24.

Riverside County Fair

Ashley Bailey

Riverside County Fair Spokeswoman Veronica Casper says the fire started 67 years ago to celebrate the end of the date harvest season. Now, the fair takes place in the winter, rather than the summer, mainly because of the weather.


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.

More in Culture

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus