Officially, the 32nd annual Greek Festival, being celebrated today at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, is intended to honor the 2,500th birthday of democracy in ancient Greece.
"We've done quite a bit of research on this and we're not just pulling a date out of thin air," said festival chairman John Tarazi. "They're celebrating in Greece, too."
Unofficially, however, the idea is for festival-goers to stuff themselves silly on platefuls of moussaka and honey-drenched kataifi pastries, to down ouzo, and to join the costumed dancers doing the tsamiko.
The festival, sponsored by St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Church in Pasadena, usually attracts between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors each year, and has the distinction of being the most elaborate and the oldest Greek cultural fair in Southern California. In its early years, the festival was held on the church grounds after services on Sunday, Tarazi said, but it was moved to the race track in 1976 because of the surge in attendance.