Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival 2009

This fair is held annually in Indio, CA and showcases the Coachella Valley's agricultural production with its date crop as the fair's highlight (perhaps in name only as there are few (though the ones they do have are quite interesting) date-related exhibits). They also have the area's famous date milkshakes which are super sweet and very tasty.

If you didn't know the area is known for its date (as in date tree) production with original tree lineages from Iraq and the Middle East. There is even a city/"census-designated place" called Mecca, California! One of the more prominant farms has a video show about the area's history and several date dessert packages and date shakes.

The fair's theme since its start in 1947 has been the 1001 Nights (aka Arabian Nights) and each year they present a live story from the collection and crown a local teen "Queen Scheherazade" along with Princess Dunyazade and a Princess Jasmine. They also have daily camel races.

This year's (2009) festival's play was "Ali Baba and the Den of Thieves" which was quite interesting to see performed in the rural arena of Indio (we may have been some of the only out-of-towners who travelled to the fair). The play incorporated several pop songs (ABBA, the Smiths, even the Turkish song "Kiss Kiss") which gave it a contemporary/ironic feel ala Moulin Rouge (the film). The production and music was quite good although several scenes felt a bit high-schooly and the microphones failed a couple of times.

The story began with the frame story of the Nights, fairly faithful and replete with the wife's infidelity and Shahriyar's subsequent beheadings (although no mention of who the original wife was unfaithful with).

The story of Ali Baba was a basic morality tale of the power of greed, money and evil vs. the power of love, with love winning in the end. In these economic times it felt appropriate.

Overall ok, a bit long at an hour and 20 mins or so. Will take some convincing to get the family to return next year I fear. We missed the show's opening prologue "A Tribute to the Troops" unfortunately.

Here are some pictures (click on them for full picture):

gates featuring lamp and genie

the show

Queen and Princess

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