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I-Team: Future of the Date Festival

The Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival would have opened Friday for its 75th anniversary.

This year's fair is canceled because of the pandemic and now there are questions about the long term future of the fair.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved $1.6 million in funding for the fairgrounds in November of last year while many of them raised questions about what they perceive to be financial losses.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries saying, "I've kind of reached my limit on continuing to fund the date festival at such dramatic losses every year."

Local Supervisor Manuel Perez says the fair actually makes money.

"We were able to have a net gain of close to $200,000, so it pays for itself," Perez says.

Budget numbers show the National Date Festival operating at a loss of nearly $424,000 so far this fiscal year.

Perez argues those numbers show the loss of maintaining the fairgrounds, not the fair itself.

"When we talk about the operations and maintenance of the fairgrounds site as a whole, well, that's what we got to work on," according to Perez.

Expenses include utilities, security, insurance, and landscaping.

This year the property has been used for coronavirus testing, a potential overflow field hospital, and now a vaccination clinic.

Another consideration is the fair's history and meaning to the valley.

The festival celebrates the valley's agricultural history by highlighting the date that came to the area from Africa and the middle east around the turn of the last century.

Indio Mayor Elaine Holmes says it's important to her city's identity.

"This is wonderful for the city of Indio, we so enjoy the energy and the vibe that comes out of this fair and subsequent the festival around that," Holmes says.

The county is posting virtual content to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Date Festival. You can check that out at DateFest.org

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John White

John White anchors News Channel 3 Live at 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m.on KESQ-TV and CBS Local 2. Learn more about John here.

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