Herb knows Oktoberfest

When Bo Jackson starred in multiple sports two decades ago, Nike ran a famous commercial in which fellow athletes touted his eclectic knowledge — "Bo knows baseball," "Bo knows football" and so on.

If Old World Village ever runs an ad campaign for its annual Oktoberfest celebration, it may want to call it "Herb Knows." The Herb in question is Herbert Schwarz, a.k.a. the Herbmeister, who has served as Oktoberfest master of ceremonies for 29 years.

To name a few: Herb knows the donkey song. Herb knows the rucki-zucki dance. Herb knows how to start the conga line and the beer-drinking contest. And Herb knows what all those German drinking-song lyrics mean when translated into English (example: "In heaven, there is no beer/That's why we drink it here").

"I have quite a fan base," said Schwarz, who lives in West Hollywood and runs a soccer and music promotion business. "There's so many people who tell me they come just for me because I make it fun. Listening to German music is one thing, but I exude that energy because it's part of me. My whole life is Oktoberfest."

Old World Village will kick off its 34th annual Oktoberfest on Sunday, and Schwarz will make his usual rounds every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until the festival ends Oct. 30. In addition to the above-mentioned duties, the Herbmeister announces musical acts, points customers to vendor booths and helps advertise T-shirt specials.

Oh, and he poses for photos. Lots of photos, mostly, he said, at the request of young women who ask to pose with him. The Old World website sports a photo gallery with more than a dozen pictures, and Schwarz plans to launch an official Herbmeister Fan Club in time for this year's festival.

A native Austrian with family in Germany, Schwarz became acquainted with the Bischof family, which founded Old World, through mutual friends in the mid-1970s. After the festival's previous emcee retired due to health reasons, Schwarz volunteered for the job.

"People ask, 'Is the Herbmeister here?'" said Cyndie Kasko, the marketing manager of Old World German Restaurant and co-director of Oktoberfest. "They get so excited to see him."

In addition to the fan club, this year's Oktoberfest features a few new attractions. The organizers have added a trackless train to escort children around the grounds, and a Russian-style puppet theater will also debut.

Otherwise, the festival will offer the time-honored Oktoberfest staples: dachshund races, happy hours, "oom pah pah bands" from Germany and plenty of beer and sausage. For the 13th year, Old World will also host an opening-day fundraiser for the Therapeutic Riding Center of Huntington Beach, with $10 for a chicken or bratwurst meal in the Festival Hall.

"Bottom line, it's about having fun," Schwarz said. "Good, clean fun. That's hard to find these days."

If You Go

What: Oktoberfest

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

When: Opening day fundraiser 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Regular hours 6:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 30. Only 21 and older admitted Friday and Saturday.

Cost: Free Wednesday and Thursday; $15 Friday and Saturday; $5 for adults, $2 for children 6 to 12 Sunday

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

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