When Tucson Meet Yourself celebrates 40 years of international taste-testing next month, expect a side of stars and stripes.

Tucson, meet American food.

Embracing its nickname, “Tucson Eat Yourself,” this year’s festival adds another course to its already stuffed menu.

The new American Festival Food Traditions section highlights tried-and-true American classics. The area brings together authentic Philly cheese steaks, barbecue and for the first time, baseball favorites such as hamburgers and hot dogs, prepared by Tucson Invitational Games. Also save some room for some good, old fashioned kettle corn, doughnuts and soft-serve ice cream.

These American goodies, as much as Greek or Thai choices, have a place at the festival, said Maribel Alvarez, Tucson Meet Yourself’s program director.

“Even something we call the norm of mainstream America, these traditions have been crafted over time,” said Alvarez, who is also the University of Arizona’s folklorist and a research professor.

The slogan of this year’s event, Oct. 11-13, encourages attendees to “Come for the food, stay for the culture.”

“The food is the big sugar coating on our educational mission,” Alvarez said.

This year’s festival will look back at Tucson’s ethnic history, with presentations and exhibits by the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center and a panel of Western History Association scholars, among others.

Looking forward to another 40 years, the festival is going green and slimming down.

In 2010, a growth spurt propelled Tucson Meet Yourself south of Congress Street and Broadway Boulevard, spreading it across most of downtown. This year, the festival will cut that southern section, responding to feedback that the size made walking the whole festival difficult.

Bumping down from six to four major entertainment stages, this year’s festival is “selectively curated,” Alvarez said.

Focusing on all-around quality for both present and future, the festival this year has banned styrofoam to limit waste headed for landfills. Last year, through a partnership with the University of Arizona’s Compost Cats, Tucson Meet Yourself turned about 880 pounds of waste into compost. Organizers want to do better this year, so Earth-friendly lessons will mix with the tasty, cultural experience.

Volunteers will be out in force, serving up a side of greens with that doughnut.

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@azstarnet.com or 573-4357.

Writing about Tucson's heart and soul — its people, its kindness, its faith — for #ThisIsTucson.