March 15, 2017

Photo Essay: A SoCal County Celebrates the Sahara

The Riverside County Fair and Date Festival was actually the first Southern California county fair that I ever attended... having coincided with the trip I'd taken to Joshua Tree and the Coachella Valley in 2009 after quitting my job (and never looking back).

Back then, I didn't know what to make of its Arabian Nights-meets-Disneyland vibe....

...and it doesn't make much more sense to me now, eight years later.

Yes, the Date Festival began in the early 20th century as a way to celebrate the end of the date harvest. And sure, California wouldn't be what it is today without those date palm trees that were brought here from Algeria.

But for a Western country that supposedly hates the Middle East, we sure do love our camels.

We love to ride 'em...

...and we love to race 'em.

And for all the progress we've made in terms of animal rights, we're still racing ostriches, too (though the "Arabian" variety of ostrich was hunted to extinction in the Middle East by the mid-1960s).

What makes a little more sense to me is the shameless American tradition of Monster Trucks...

...which can be a guilty pleasure to watch...

...and, as it turns out, endlessly entertaining to ride.

For a mere $10, you can get strapped onto the top of a "monster"-style fire truck called "The Extinguisher"...

...which takes a few laps around the arena and rolls over a few mounds of dirt a few times, while you hold on for dear life.

In the end, despite the nightly "Arabian Nights Musical Pageant" and "Queen Scheherazade" and her royal court, the Riverside County Fair and Date Festival is really just another excuse to walk the midway...

...spin around on some rides...

...and feel like a kid again.

As I was getting ready to mount one of the menagerie animals on Butler Amusements' grand carousel...

...I heard a little girl tell her daddy something that made me laugh out loud.

"I don't want to ride that," she said, meaning the carousel I was about to go 'round on.

"That ride is for babies!" she declared.

And maybe she's right—though it would take a pretty streetwise baby to be able to handle its bright turquoise sea dragon.

Or maybe the "babies" she was referring to were actually the cherubs clutching onto the manes and saddles of the jumping horses...

...peering out from their equine perches.

But there are so many faces on carousels like this one, and so many different animals to choose from...

...that it couldn't possibly be just for one type of person.

After all, with the electric blue sea dragon taken, I found myself a cat with a fish in its maw to saddle up.

My second time at the fair, I did a better job of at least trying to commit it to memory. But who knows where I'll be eight years from now—and what I'll remember (or will have forgotten) by then?

Related Posts:
The Legacy and Legends of California Camels
Photo Essay: Chasing Down Some Flightless Feathered Friends
LA County Fair 2012
Kern County Fair 2012
Back to Bakersfield
No Single Riders

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