However, this German village in Surf City USA is so much more than that.
Sunshine, warm weather, beaches, World War II, bratwurst, beer, a German-American love story, and a taste of Germany. While unusual movie scripts like this are produced in Tinseltown, Hollywood is where this story begins.
Many people don’t think of southern California when they picture Germany. A Huntington Beach Oktoberfest on the the sunny California shores isn’t what most people picture when it comes to beer, lederhosen, and German culture. However, you can’t appreciate the Huntington Beach Oktoberfest without understanding its history.
Huntington Beach, California is a long way from Munich, Germany. However, it may not be as far as you think.
The roots of German culture in Huntington Beach began in Hollywood. Not on a screen but in the life of a woman named Dolores.
It was late 1930s and this young woman had an English mother who needed to sell a home in Germany. Because of her mom’s citizenship, she couldn’t go to Germany. So Dolores went in her place. The year was 1939.
After arriving in Germany, World War II began as Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. While the war changed the lives of people throughout the world, this event was unexpected and life changing for Dolores as well. The start of war meant a new life in Germany which would last quite a few years.
While she was there, she fell in love with the culture of Germany and enjoyed the music, club, and social scene. While many people throughout the world hated Germany, Dolores fell in love with it – in the middle of a war. After the war ended, Dolores came back home to Hollywood but packed her love of German culture in her heart.
In 1952, German developer Josef Bischof made his way to the United States settling on California’s coast. He had a dream when he moved here – he wanted to bring a piece of his homeland with him. During these early years, Josef found a partner – he met Dolores in a German club. With dreams in his head and Dolores’ love of German culture in her heart, they made a perfect team and sought to made Josef’s dream a reality.
Josef was able to find some land in Huntington Beach and set out to build 50 homes and shops in the tradition Bavarian style. Keeping with tradition, these homes were built above the shops so families who ran the businesses also lived upstairs. Imported lanterns along cobbled stone streets lead through a path of Bavarian buildings decorated with 70 murals of Europe from 18 different countries.
The vision was to build a typical German village with all the features that people would need. There was a church built in the middle of the village and a banquet hall for receptions and weddings. Throughout the village, there was a biergarten and gazebo, restaurants, a market, a motel, and a variety of shops ti purchase things like health foods, collectibles, and German groceries.
In September 1978, Old World Village had its Grand Opening and kicked it off with its first annual Oktoberfest.
Today, Old World Village is the host of the annual Huntington Beach Oktoberfest. This year marks the 34th annual event but Old World Village is so much more than a German beer and cultural celebration.
Today, Old World Village is still home to a a real life German village. While Dolores recently passed away, Josef still lives in the village. His daughter Cindy and her husband Jason still live here as well. Their son Bern (known around here as Bernie) also has a home here and is now in charge of keeping the traditions and festivals like Oktoberfest alive.
Life continues here year round. Each day, a number of Europeans come to the market and shop at the German deli and bakery where people purchase bread and other goods that come from Europe.
Every day, the shops and restaurants at Old World Village are open for business as people can come to enjoy authentic German food and enjoy many of the shops in the village. When businesses close at the end of the day, many head upstairs above their shops to their homes.
Life doesn’t stop on the weekends. Baptisms, weddings, and services are still a weekly part of the church as many people have made this their community. The banquet hall hosts a number of receptions, parties, and concerts. And beyond the Huntington Beach Oktoberfest each year, there are a number of festivals that are celebrated throughout the year in Old World Village.
In May, Maifest is celebrated with German bands and folk dancers. A maypole stands in the village symbolizing typical German life. On the second Sunday in July, “German Heritage Day” celebrates the culture with beer, music, and German food. Think of it as a mini-Oktoberfest.
Typically, the 3rd Sunday in August celebrates the “Plum Festival” in honor of Dolores’ mother. “Grossmama”, as she is known, lived in the village until she was 103. When she was 100, she baked Dolores’ birthday cake – a Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake). Baked goods with juicy plums honor this birthday tradition along with music and folk dancers.
Life at Old World Village is not your usual scene on the sun soaked beaches in Huntington Beach. It’s not even your typical American one. Bavarian life has come to California and made a home here.
Just a few miles from here, Disneyland may be the place where dreams come true. However, Old World Village is where German dreams came true for Josef and Dolores Bischof. And for those here in southern California, Old World Village welcomes visitors and locals alike with a hearty ‘Guten tag!’
A German-American love story born from World War II and dreams of a German village on a southern California beach. It may not be a Hollywood script but it’s only fitting Hollywood is where it all started.