A 200-year tradition

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.

The Shot Girls are chosen through video auditions, in which Old World staff members ask a series of questions — including the meaning of Oktoberfest, which Kasko said many didn't know — and ask applicants to perform the Chicken Dance. Nikki Obra of Newport Beach, one of the 25 women who got the job this year, said she passed that part of the exam easily.

"They kind of sprung it on me, but I was able to pull it out of my memory," she said.

Ultimately, Kasko said, organizers look for the applicants with the best charisma and sales savvy.

"Beauty has nothing to do with it," she said. "You have to know how to sell a drink. You have to have that personality where people will come up and buy from you."

If You Go

What: Oktoberfest

Where: Old World Village, 7561 Center Ave., Huntington Beach

When: 6:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 5 to Oct. 31

Cost: Free Wednesday and Thursday, $15 Friday and Saturday (only 21 and older admitted), $5 Sunday (children 6 and younger admitted for free); $10 for Sunday's fundraiser for Therapeutic Riding Center of Huntington Beach

Information: (714) 895-8020 or http://www.oldworld.ws

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