I don't usually take sides as a reporter. During City Council election time, I avoid endorsing candidates; if a dispute arises in town over organized religion, I keep my spiritual views private.

But if it comes to supporting Old World Village, the most delightfully oddball shopping center in Huntington Beach and probably Southern California as a whole, I'll go ahead and show my true colors.

What follows is a public service announcement from someone who has been enchanted with the German-themed, cobblestoned, dachshund-teeming haven since he first set foot there years ago.

In short, Old World is starting a new program to boost business March 20, and it needs your help.

Sometimes when I visit another state, I buy one of those travel guides called "Off the Beaten Path" to make the journey more interesting. Those books have led me to, among other things, the birthplace of Amelia Earhart, the barbed wire museum and the world's largest twine ball.

Here in Orange County, the beaten path is pretty well-beaten. Perhaps someone who grew up next to the twine ball would swoon at the sight of Red Robin and McDonald's and Staples dominating one shopping center after another, but those of us who live in the area can be forgiven for getting blasé.

Old World, which features classic Germanic architecture and one-of-a-kind shops whose owners often live upstairs, offers a welcome dose of nonconformity. The trouble is, almost every time I visit there on a day without a dachshund race, I feel like a nonconformist myself — I'm literally the only person walking about.

Hopefully, that will change soon. A group of Old World merchants recently founded the Shopkeepers Committee to stir up business, and their first project is a sidewalk sale that will bring vendors from around the region to hawk their wares on the cobblestones.

The committee will start by offering sidewalk sales on race days, but hopes soon to book events every Saturday and Sunday. Already on the docket for April 17 is a Volkswagen show, and the group is looking into Renaissance fairs, pirate shows and other family entertainment.

Cyndie Kasko, a member of the board of directors for the Old World Owners Assn., said the center ultimately hopes the sidewalk sales will lure more customers into its regular stores and maybe entice a few entrepreneurs into the empty units.

"It's a really neat place to move your family into," she said. "It's perfect for young families with children. They can live upstairs and run their business downstairs."

As one who once slept at the Ball of Twine Inn in Cawker City, Kan., I must say it sounds more interesting than tract housing.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

If You Go

What: Sidewalk sale

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

When: Noon to 5 p.m. March 20

Cost: Free; $20 for a vendor table

Information: (714) 895-8020 or http://www.visitoldworld.com