Grecian Festival by the Sea

Not many people can say they have seen a man dancing with a fully set table in his mouth. And a lot fewer have seen anyone dancing with two of them. But that will change next weekend when "The Amazing Demetrios Dalietos" dances with two tables--and a woman perched atop them--at the Grecian Festival by the Sea in Long Beach. Dalietos will join dozens of Greek performers and mounds of tasty Greek dishes (barbecued chicken, shish kebabs, sausage, gyros , baklava) in a Labor Day weekend fete of family fun.

There will be Greek cooking lessons, and storytellers will recount legends of ancient times, when Greece was inhabited by seers, winged beasts and fleet-footed gods. (For the less literary, there also will be carnival rides and penny arcades.) Free Greek dancing lessons will be offered at several times during the weekend. Coors beer is sponsoring the 42nd annual festival, with proceeds going to the building fund for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Long Beach.

Along with Greek dancers the Olympians, Attiki, Ta Pedia Tis Lefterias, Ta Ageloudakia and Nea Ellas Ellinopoula, "The Amazing Demetrios" will teach the brave to trip the light fantastic with tables. (A good slug of ouzo helps a lot, Dalietos advises.)

Dalietos learned the dances as a boy growing up on the island of Paxos, near Corfu in the Ionian chain. "It used to be a man's dance, with lots of smoking and drinking. No women were around."

Dalietos, a gracious man with a doctorate in chemistry and amazingly strong mouth muscles, came to the United States 25 years ago with a will "to succeed no matter what." Although he returns every year to visit his family on Paxos, he calls Redondo Beach home. He refuses to divulge his age, and will only say: "I'm not very young, but I guess you could say I'm pretty strong."

For the past four years, Dalietos has been performing for fun at Grandia Palace, a Greek restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The key to his success: "You drink a little ouzo , you feel freedom. Drink a little more, you get inspired. You drink a little more, you start to pick up the table."

The Greek Festival by the Sea runs from noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 at Rainbow Lagoon, just off Shoreline Drive at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. The cost: $3 per adult; children under 12 are free. Those with ticket stubs from the Harvest Festival, which also runs Labor Day weekend at the convention center, will receive a $1 discount. Public parking at the festival site costs $5, but parking is free in outlying lots, with complimentary shuttle service from Long Beach Plaza.

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