From Dickens to Dates, Winter Never Bores in the IE

Posted January 21, 2009 in Feature Story

There are the ostriches, camels, and ceramics galore, Nicholas Nickleby and thunderous roars. If you’re cruising the Inland Empire highways in search of things to see and do, check out these winter festivals near you:


Claremont is home to the oldest and most prestigious ceramics show in North America. This year marks the 65th Ceramics Annual at Scripps College’s Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery (1030 Columbia Ave., Claremont). Professor Adam Davis, curator of the exhibit, will showcase the works of Tori Arpad, Christy Gast, Jeff Irwin, Charles Krafft, Io Palmer, Katherine L. Ross, Anders Ruhwald and Reinaldo Sanguino. All artwork will be displayed until April 5. For details, call (909) 607-3397. 


Each year, Dickens’ characters parade down two city blocks of Mission Inn Avenue for the Riverside Dickens Festival (February 6–8). The theme for 2009 is “A Nickel’s Worth of Nickleby.” Witness the transformation of modern day Riverside into 1840s London, where the Gordon Highlanders escort Queen Victoria in the Grand March along a thoroughfare showcasing Victorian music, crafts and period fashions, concluded by the knighting of a vaunted member of the community and Fezziwig’s Ball at the Municipal Auditorium. Mr. Pickwick’s Pub Night on Feb. 7 is the event most likely to draw Queen Victoria’s ire with its frolicking good times, frothy brews and tawdry sing-alongs. Information is available through or by calling (951) 781-3168. 


Those with a need for speed will be elated to know that racing season officially opens with the NHRA Winternationals (February 5 – 8), the race that kicks off the NHRA Full-Throttle Drag Racing Series. It’s also the place to spot cars, drivers, and teams with news-making and championship potential. Ford plans to debut its rare, second gen Cobra Jet Mustang (only 50 were made). Will Tony Schumacher notch another exciting win? Or will racing royalty’s local sensation (and foxy) Ashely Force, an entry once again in Funny Cars, do her community proud? Preliminary rounds begin February 5th at the Auto Club Raceway (2780 Fairplex, Pomona). For tickets, call (800) 884-6472.


Speedsters have further reason to cheer—they’ll get to sate their appetites later in the month with a trio of events happening February 20–22 at the nearby Auto Club Speedway (9300 Cherry Ave., Fontana; (800) 944-7223). First off is Friday’s NASCAR Qualifying Day, the race that determines the entrants to Sunday’s Auto Club 500, one of the major competitions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leading up to the Daytona 500. Saturday is reserved for the Stater Bros. 300 and San Bernardino 200. To combat the downturn in the economy, Pepsi and the Auto Club Speedway have buddied up to offer special value tickets for $35, which buys a seat in the first 5 rows of the grandstands.


Fried Twinkies, Indian Fry bread and camel and ostrich races can mean only one thing—the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival has arrived. The Inland Empire’s kitschiest event takes place February 13–22 at the Riverside Fairgrounds (82-503 Hwy 111, Indio). Alas, the date groves no longer exist, replaced by housing tracts and recession-interrupted suburbia, but the festival still plays host to huge crowds. Queen Sheherazade and her court reign over the party, entertained by Arabian-themed plays, Elvis reincarnated, Mexican dancing, Monster Truck competitions and rodeos, plus 18 year old Samantha Eccles will auction off a pig named “Cure” for her breast cancer fundraiser. Returning from the dead will be the Gin Blossoms, supplemented by performances from El Coyote y Su Banda Tierra Santa. The first four hours of opening day are free. For tickets, call (800) 811-3247 or visit the website at Admission is $8 adults, $7 seniors, $6 children over 5. 

–Nancy Powell


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