Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 3 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Liwa Date Festival turns to drive-through format to keep show on the road

Contestants must present negative Covid-19 tests to deliver their entries

The Liwa Date Festival is back for a sixteenth year - but the latest installment of the cultural celebration is like no other in its rich history.

Due to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, no visitors are allowed to attend an event which traditionally draws tens of thousands of people from across the Emirates and the wider region.

While safety is understandably paramount, the show is still able to go on - taking on a drive through-style format - with entrants vying for a share of a lucrative Dh8 million prize fund for showcasing the best produce.

The ever-popular six-day festival got under way on Friday with strict safety measures in place.

Contestants must drive through to the festival premises and deliver their entries from their vehicles.

Once a participant arrives at the gates of the festival grounds, they must present their Emirates ID card and proof they have tested negative for Covid-19 through Al Hosn app.

After being admitted inside the gate, the vehicle passes through a sterilisation tunnel.

Then the contestant is guided to one of three stations to present his entry.

As no direct contact is allowed, the entrant communicates with the administrator through a microphone and speaker.

The entrant inserts their ID card in an electronic reader to register their details, and takes oath that the fruits they are entering in the competition are from their own farm.

The date basket is weighed to make sure it meets the minimum weight requirement for that given contest.

The contestant then leaves, the date-basket is sterilised, and taken to the judges so they can examine each fruit’s size, colour and type.

For each competition category, a number of finalists are selected, and two judges visit their farms in person for further evaluation.

Once the winners have been selected, the top three will be announced through the festival’s social media accounts, and their trophies will be presented on an empty stage for filming.

All winners will be contacted to receive their cash prizes through their bank accounts or by being issued cheques.

Normally, the top three winners are honoured on stage, to be greeted by cheering crowds, which won’t be possible this year.

The Liwa Date Festival is being under the patronage of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

Despite the unique circumstances of this year's festival, there remains great interest in an event celebrating the country's heritage.

Hundreds of people have entered what they hope to be prize-winning produce in recent days.

The festival is seen as the highlight of Liwa's social calendar with winners becoming renowned among Emiratis who live in the region.

The annual event seeks to promote the cultivation of the finest varieties of dates and give companies and farmers a platform to share healthy, sustainable agricultural methods for producing high quality dates.

The festival is held in July to correspond with the annual date harvest.

Updated: July 20, 2020 05:15 PM

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