First County Fair of the Year: Hello, Riverside

The February fun-maker is up with rodeo, rides, and dates, dates, dates.

WINTER? PAH! A spate of wintry days returned to the southern part of the California at the end of the Warmest January in Recent Memory, which is good and as it should be. We want and need the moisture, and, nope, summer isn't nearly here yet. Thank you for acting accordingly, weather. And yet the spirit of summer makes an annual early appearance 'round Indio, each and every February, when the first county fair of the California calendar kicks off. We know. The whole concept of the county fair is summertime and peaches and shorts and tank tops and creamy-cold treats. February goes against much of that, at least in many places, but not in Riverside County, which has the lively and lovely task of getting the county fair scene going. And that it shall, on Friday, Feb. 14 when the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival opens for its 68th year.

FAIR FESTOONERY: There are several things to note about the sprawling festivity, which'll run for over a week (wrapping on Sunday, Feb. 23). First of all, and perhaps most obviously? "National Date Festival" is in its very name, making it the rare county fair to spotlight a single edible so prominently. But spotlight it should, given the date's regional prominence, and spotlight it shall: Date treats and shakes and such are a mondo part of the proceedings.

AS IS... rodeo, yep, and auto events, for sure, and concerts (Kool & The Gang and Five for Fighting will both be on hand to get fair goers moving). A midway, animal sweetness, and Queen Scheherazade are crowd favorites, too. You might, in fact, forget that it isn't June or July, given all of the classic county fair touches that Riverside boasts, but you'll still need a jacket, sunshine or no. Yep, it is true: SoCalers have a county fair at close quarters for just about half of the year, winter, summer, and fall. Pretty sweet? As sweet as a date, we'd say.

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