It's chic to be Greek

It's not unusual to find traffic backed up clear across Normandie Avenue on a Friday afternoon. But upon closer inspection, one would have realized the annual Greek Fest was back in town. That's right. Los Angeles' annual festival, which is now in it's 12th year, gave way to three nights of Zorba dancing, authentic Greek cuisine and delicious pastries. Kicking things off last Friday at 5 p.m., the festivities continued the whole weekend and boasted attendees of all ages and backgrounds alike.

With loud music coming from the stage upon arrival, people danced and cheered for the performing band while others watched from tables as they ate. On the menus, there are Gyros (beef and lamb served on warm pita bread) and Kalamari, among other things (I ordered Souvlakia - skewers of lamb, pork, or chicken, and opted for the lamb, a first time for me). Served nice and warm, it was an overall marvelous experience of Greek cuisine.

Once finished with the food, your eyes catch a glimpse of a Ferris wheel at a distance. Walking closer toward it, you see other carnival rides like the spinning teacups and a giant slide. Parents watch as their young ones' faces light up.

Meanwhile on another side of the fest, adults without children are at Tunics, a Greek sports bar and tavern, mingling with friends and colleagues. Others are at the wine tasting booth sampling the different kinds of wines. Later that night, people from the audience got up to dance on stage, which was the Zorba Dance Contest part of the evening.

"I love coming to the Greek Fest. The Baklava is to die for," says Jacqueline Eaton, an attendee standing in line to buy one of the Greek pastries to which she was referring.

On the same menu there is a list of over ten other pastries to choose from, each with a description of what they are. Diples: Pastry puffs drenched in honey, topped with cinnamon and nuts. Galaktoboureko: a finely prepared Greek custard pie. Above it all, the top of the menu read "Mediterranean delicacies that are truly ‘the best of the best!'"

Vendors selling jewelry politely smiled as one passed their merchandising booths. One of the booths is for a Grand Prize Drawing. Being raffled off: a $2,000 Dream Vacation Package among other prizes, such as a pair of courtside tickets to a Clipper's game and a large flat screen TV.

On the far south side of the festival grounds, St. Sophia Cathedral is open for the public with audio presentations conducted hourly during the day. A beautiful, lavish church filled with chandeliers and paintings along the wall, no wonder it is regarded as "the most brilliant gem in the proud diadem of Orthodoxy," according to the official Greek fest pamphlet. A sense of serenity fills the large church, a feeling much different yet not less thrilling than that of the celebration going on outside. A few people sit scattered throughout the rows, listening to a presentation of the Cathedral's history and breathtaking architecture.

Opening night of L.A. Greek Fest seems to be an all around success. With Greek dance workshops and cooking demonstrations lined up for Saturday and Sunday, the following days surely kept the entertainment going. It may be "chic to be Greek," like the shirts of some attendees read, but it's also incredibly fun.