Old World Village in Huntington Beach hosted its weekly Kinderfest this past Sunday. Kinderfest, the family-friendly version of Oktoberfest, is home to wiener dog racing. Families can bring their children to eat authentic German food, listen to live bands and watch little dogs waddle across a finish line.
Inge McKellop, store owner of the Wiener Dog Store and coordinator of the event, started the dachshund races 25 years ago.This is the first year at Kinderfest that Old World has extended its fall competition to small dogs of all breeds.
Wiener dogs, or dachshunds, are a sausage-shaped breed with long backs and short legs. Originally bred as agile hunters of small animals, dachshunds now use their talents for family companionship and, of course, racing, McKellop said.
“We want to celebrate people who don’t have purebreds but love their dogs too. And we want to give them an opportunity to have fun in a race,” she said.
McKellop said the racing idea started when she brought dachshunds from a club for a completely different event and they started running through the middle of the village like a “little Tour de France.”
Cherry Blaine, the master of ceremonies for the dog races, talked about the safety and rules involved in these events.
“(The race) has to be short enough that (the dogs) can’t just step over the (dividers). We don’t want to risk it and step over the lane, we gotta keep a little bit of safety first,” she said. “Any overly aggressive dogs or owners will be disqualified. We’re here to have fun.”
The races take place in the center of the Old World Village. The dog-friendly patio, where they had the miniature track placed, was surrounded by souvenir shops, festival games, authentic German restaurants, open pubs and a dance hall with a live band.
As time grew near for the racing festivities to start, families gathered around the track with helpings of bratwursts, pretzels and beer.
“This is not a dog-launching contest. It is a race,” Blaine said during the opening comments about the rules. “We’re not trying to figure out how far you can throw your dog.”
The track was set up with divider lanes and flags, and even had a personal referee. But despite all the competition and professionalism, everyone was there just to have a good time and look at cute dogs.
Families cheered and placed imaginary bets on certain dogs, but in an event like this, all of the adorable contestants were fan favorites.
A few dogs were completely zoned in and shot across the tiny course to their owners, while others just trotted along, sniffing around the track.
Kimberly and Ivan, owners of this week’s winner, Rowdy, a five-and-a-half month old dachshund, spoke briefly about their six-pound champion.
“This is her third race. First time she raced she got seventh, and last week she got third,” Kimberly said. “She has a cat sister at home, so she just chases the cat.”
While the young Rowdy took first place this week, all of the other families were just happy to cheer for their dog.
Patricia Garrovillo, owner of another contestant, Rocky, spoke about Kinderfest and her family’s experiences.
“It’s so much fun. We have a little niece so it’s much more fun because it’s Kinderfest and it’s kid friendly,” Garrovillo said.
Rocky, who’s 15 years old and as active as ever,, was eliminated before the finals.
Although he lost, nobody goes home empty-handed, McKellop said.
Dogs that participate in the race but don’t place are rewarded with food, squeaky toys, vests and more from McKellop’s Wiener Dog Store.
“Every dog is a winner, and most of them are wieners. And everyone will get some kind of prizes,” Blaine said.