It’s no secret: the Desert Cities know how to throw great parties. The Date Harvest Festival looks to be no exception. Even in its freshman year set for Nov. 9, it’s a high-octane event packed with great musical acts, celebrity chefs, culinary vendors providing delicious, adventurous food and drink, a ferris wheel, and a Veteran’s Rec and Resources tent.
“We love the fact that it’s Veterans Day weekend,” says Mark Tadros who produces the festival with marketing guru Michele Tully. “There’s a whole component that focuses on honoring our military. Mission Veterans, the VA, Disabled Veterans of America, and five other veterans groups have compiled a really cool group of resources for veterans to be able to sign up for during the event. Even eligible active-duty service members can sign up for different things.” In a show of respect, military personnel need only show identification to gain admission.
Tadros and Tully’s altruism doesn’t stop there. Friday night, before the festival, there is an opportunity to attend the Date Harvest Charity Dinner in downtown Coachella on the library lawn. The five-course meal with wine pairings will begin at 6 p.m. with all those gorgeous stars twinkling overhead. All proceeds benefit FIND Food Bank, whose mission is to end hunger in the Coachella Valley. In fact, the entire festival is about giving back – every ticket sold translates into five meals for the food bank.
The fest runs noon to 10 p.m. Nov. 9 at Rancho Las Flores Event Venue at Van Buren and 48th Avenue in Coachella. The gorgeous space, backdropped by majestic mountains at every turn, has been used as a park and soccer field, but Tadros saw it for what it could be: a bustling outdoor event space. There’s plenty of room for a stage, an artisan tent, the veteran’s tent, the ferris wheel, food trucks, and Date Dealer’s Row where local farmers display and sell their dates. The middle of the space is all about lawn seating so you can see the musical acts and the guest chefs on the stage.
The musical acts cut a wide swath of indie artists with worldwide cred. Omar Offendum is a Syrian-American rapper whose music is a unique blend of hip-hop and Arabic poetry. He’s helped raise millions of dollars for various humanitarian relief groups and was recently named a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow for 2018-2019.
Jenny and the Mexicats
Just off a Tiny Desk performance for NPR, Jenny and the Mexicats are a multicultural band composed of English trumpeter and singer Jenny Ball, Spanish percussionist David González Bernardos, with Mexicans Pantera Mexicat on guitar, and Icho on double bass. Their music is fun and infectious.
And then there’s Urban Renewal Project, a Los Angeles-based band whose signature sound blurs the boundaries between soul, jazz, and hip-hop. Featuring a big band horn section, a singer and a rapper, they perform upbeat originals, and fresh interpretations of everything from jazz standards to recent hits.
Rounding out the list of performers, Australian platinum-selling country singer and hit songwriter Jamie O’Neal. The Grammy Award-nominated, ACM and Billboard award-winning singer has written songs for Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Leann Rimes, Cece Winans, and Idina Menzel, among others. She was also chosen to record a duet with American Idol winner, Carrie Underwood, to introduce Underwood to country music fans. The hit song “Does He Love You” made the list of CMT’s 100 Greatest Duets.
For cooking demonstrations, Next Food Network Star winner and Aarti Paarti host Aarti Sequeira will take the stage; newly minted California Dates ambassador, celebrity chef Stuart O’Keeffe (a Palm Desert Food and Wine favorite) has a demonstration as does Jenn Roose from Gather & Graze, who will show you how to create beautiful spreads of vegetables, meats, and cheeses.
You can expect great foods from their coterie of artisan food vendors with a list of delectables too extensive to name, as well as a robust fleet of food trucks near the seating kiosks. Each vendor will get into the spirit by offering at least one dish with a date component.
Adults aren’t the only ones who will have fun. Besides the ferris wheel and sugary treats, there’s backyard fun in the form of Cornhole. And if cornhole, cotton candy, and a ferris wheel isn’t enough to keep the kids busy, there will be a giant John Deere tractor display to ogle and explore.
Tadros is not only one of the organizers of the event, he is an actual date farmer. Aziz Farms is a family-run, sustainable date palm ranch in unincorporated Thermal. But that’s not why the former chef is investing his time into this event. He likely won’t even have the time or manpower to sell his own dates, so there’s no profit gain for the farm.
As an art teacher at Desert Christian Academy, Tully has an emotional investment in Coachella too. “The majority of people that live in the valley don’t realize how strong the agricultural community is once you pass Jefferson, so it was important for us to throw the festival in the ag community in an actual city where the dates are grown. It just would not make sense anywhere else. So we’re really excited to get people to see the other side of the valley,” she says.
The entry cost is $20 in advance, and $25 at the door. There are also a family pass that includes two adults and two kids for $30, and a VIP package that includes parking, VIP access to the stage, a private bar, and upfront seating.
Before you hit the festival, Tadros suggests checking out Coachella’s new downtown. He’s very proud of it and its new artisan shops. He’s particularly positive about 6th Street Coffee, “It’s the best I’ve ever had,” he says. Considering he’s cheffed in major cities across the country, that’s a pretty solid recommendation.
Date Harvest Festival, Nov. 9, noon to 10 p.m., Rancho Las Flores Event Venue, 48400 Van Buren, Coachella, dateharvestfest.com.