THAT WINTER MIDWAY: To say that a county fair is an immovable staple of the summertime is to not be acquainted with a certain February festivity that sets up the Ferris wheel and fried dough stands each and every year at the Riverside County Fairgrounds. Welp, we just tipped our hand with that one: It's the Riverside County Fair, yes, but this is the rare county fair that includes another party in its very name: the National Date Festival. It's extraordinary on these two fronts -- its unsummerlike date and its date fest cred -- but those aren't the only feathers in its cap. The fair is marking its big 70th in 2016, which leads the casual observer to the notion that there's no way that a fair fan hasn't heard of this one, whether they call California home or not. Best of all, if you are such a fan, and you can't wait for May or June, when the other midway-and-rodeo parties begin to rev up all along the West Coast, you can always make for Riverside, and you can do so over Valentine's Weekend, for starters.
YEP, THAT'S ANOTHER EXTRAORDINARY THING... about the Riverside County Fair: It coincides with Valentine's Day, and Presidents Day, too, and that long weekend serves as a sunny (usually) avenue for visitors to get their fair on. That might include taking in some concerts (the most excellent Morris Day and the Time will be there in 2016, and KC and the Sunshine Band'll disco-delight the crowds, too) or visiting the various rides for some hair-twirling, squeal-inducing action. Racing pigs, puppet shows, martial arts displays, clowning, and more fills out the entertainment schedule. And, as always, Queen Scheherazade will be part of the traditional National Date Festival doings. Oh yes, there'll be many date-delish treats to enjoy, from shakes to breads, so plan on noshing upon a few of the local gems in addition to the classic fair fare. If you can't get enough of dates, be there for the Blessing of the Dates, as well as the multiple Cooking with Dates demos. As for the dates upon the calendar? Everything opens on Friday, Feb. 12 and wraps on Sunday, Feb. 21. Hello, hello to California's wintertime summer-style extravaganza.