A 200-year tradition

What originated as a wedding celebration has become a good excuse to enjoy German culture.

September 01, 2010|By Michael Miller,
  • Nikki Obra, left, and Brittney Weldon hold beer steins at Old World Village in Huntington Beach on Friday. Oktoberfest is Wednesdays through Sundays Sept. 5 through Oct. 31.
Nikki Obra, left, and Brittney Weldon hold beer steins… (Scott Smeltzer,…)

Editor's note: This corrects the names in the captions.

Old World Restaurant is celebrating two milestones this weekend — the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest and the 29th anniversary of the Chicken Dance.

Two hundred years ago, the world-famous German festival was born when Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and put on elaborate festivities to celebrate their wedding. In the late 1970s, the German-themed restaurant in Huntington Beach launched its own Oktoberfest every fall — and in 1981, it added a twist to the celebration, courtesy of a Dutch band that had recently played in Germany before stopping in Surf City.

The band had observed the Chicken Dance, a brief series of steps that include hip-shaking, dancing in a circle and flapping the arms chicken-style, at a German club and played it for the Huntington crowd. Since then, it's become a staple, said Cyndie Kasko, the general manager of the restaurant, which is in the German-themed shopping center Old World Village.


"One year, we kept a tally of how many times it was played," she said. "You get pretty chickened out after those nine weeks."

For those weary of the Chicken Dance, though, there's plenty else going on at Old World during its annual fall festival. Oktoberfest, which starts Sunday and continues through Oct. 31, features weekly dachshund races, traditional food, live music, deejays and more.

Sundays, when the races take place, are the family-friendly days of the festival. There will also be a fundraiser the first day for the Therapeutic Riding Center of Huntington Beach, which provides horse-riding therapy for people with disabilities; the restaurant will offer a meal and entertainment for $10 between 2 and 6 p.m.

Wednesdays and Thursdays feature live entertainment with free admission, with 21-and-older nights Friday and Saturday offering beer-drinking contests and other activities.

The festival represents the biggest event of the year for Old World Village. In recent weeks, groups of "Shot Girls" — young women who serve shots of German liquor to patrons — have visited areas around Southern California in costume to hand out fliers and inform passersby of the event.

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