Sal Wertheim doesn’t look much like a party animal. At 72, he has gray hair, a generous midsection and speaks with the remnants of a German accent. You usually see him plopped in a golf cart, feet on the dash, his ever-present headset buzzing. Not your usual party animal.

So what’s he doing running eight huge parties a year?

“What else would I do? Sit around and get old?” he asks, showing off a wry grin that says, “Well, maybe I am asemi-party animal.”

As special events coordinator for the city of Newport, Wertheim either produces or coordinates eight festivals a year at the foot of Newport on the Levee between April and late September. They’re all free with half a dozen points of entry, so there’s no way to pinpoint the number of people his fests entertain, but 250,000 to 300,000 a year is a safe, though probably conservative, guess.

“It’s a year-round job,” he says. “I get down to serious work in October, right after Newport’s Oktoberfest, though I’ve really already been working on some things for months. I think it helps that I’ve been doing this for 30 years. The first 10 were in Covington, the past 20 in Newport. In many ways, I already know what problems will come up and where the hidden complications are waiting. I’ve learned which bands you have to book 18 months out, and which ones are a little more flexible. I start especially early on the national acts. But really, it feels almost automatic.”

Even for Riverfest? The 500-pound gorilla in the room that brings 200,000 partygoers to the riverfront each Labor Day weekend?

“It’s really not that much of a challenge anymore,” Wertheim insists. “The crowd is huge, but it’s well-behaved and knows the rules, even though some complain that they can’t get a beer or bring in their coolers. We have a security force of up to 100, police and National Guard, so that helps.

“I guess the only real challenge anymore is that I have to be there at 2 a.m. the day before and can’t leave for about 22 hours. Then I drive home, really carefully, and go to bed.”

Wertheim lives in Blue Ash. He’s married, a father of two, a grandfather of three, and owner of Wertheim’s, a German-themed restaurant in Covington’s MainStrasse Village. He arrived at the position of festival guru via a long and winding road.

Raised in Argentina, where his parents fled the Nazis in 1935, he arrived in the Tristate as a newlywed in 1964 and took a job in a restaurant. He joined Frisch’s corporate team in 1966 and rose to the position of manager and area supervisor by 1987, when he left to help open Oldenburg Brewery. In 1990, he went out on his own and opened Wertheim’s.

“I was ready to try something new, but I wasn’t ready to give up festivals. By 1990, I had already been working with Taste of Cincinnati and a couple of Covington festivals and really liked the work. Why stop?

“Besides, I don’t need much sleep. As we get near one of the festivals, I work 60 to 70 hours a week, maybe more for Riverfest. But it’s OK. I just like doing it.”

Any heat at home because he’s gone so much? “Honestly, there’s not that much heat. Bea is very understanding that way. And she does come to some of the festivals; 30 percent because she’s a good wife, 30 percent because she likes them, 30 percent because by then she’s bored at home, and I don’t know about the other 10 percent. Meeting up with her friends, I guess.”

The success is possible, Wertheim says, because of planning: “I said it’s a year-round job, and I really mean it. A festival will end on Sunday, and we usually have a meeting the following Tuesday to talk about next year. Sometimes, I start talking to bands and restaurants right then.”

The planning has paid off with major success. Newport started out with one fest — Riverfest — and now has seven, including Italianfest in June and America’s Celebration - Newport Motorcycle Rally over the July 4th weekend with hundreds of bikers from across the country.

Then what he needs is to take on another festival, right? “Right. We’re in the early stages of planning a chili fest for 2010. It would be 20 or so fire departments, police and civic groups. I think October for that, because chili in July, well, I don’t think it works.”

So, maybe you are the party animal you say you aren’t, ‘eh Sal? “Maybe, but mostly, I like to see people out having fun, running into friends and eating good food. This is such a great area for outdoor festivals; it’s really easier than you think.

“And satisfying. Really satisfying.”

Sal Wertheim at Italianfest in Newport Upcoming Sal Wertheim productions on the Newport riverfront:

Glier’s Goettafest, Aug. 7-9

Great Inland Seafood Festival, Aug. 13-16

Newport Oktoberfest, Sept. 25-27