The carnivale for capitalists is on.
Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting kicked off Saturday, with more than 30,000 people flocking to Omaha to hear what the conglomerate's famed CEO, Warren Buffett, had to say.
Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger answered questions from an auditorium that was packed with shareholders.
Both Wall Street and Main Street investors closely monitor any updates from Berkshire because the firm invests in well-known companies that touch many consumers' lives. Its stock holdings include Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola, American Express, IBM, ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart Stores. Berkshire also has dozens of operating units that provide a wide array of products and services, such as auto insurance, paint, t-shirts and candy.
The questions for Buffett and Munger were varied, ranging from queries about specific investments to inquiries about Berkshire's overall strategies for its own shareholders.
An early question addressed a hot topic: Coca-Cola's pay plan for its executives. Berkshire, which has 400 million shares of the beverage company, abstained from voting against that compensation plan, although Buffett has advocated against exorbitant executive pay and called Coke's plan "excessive" in a CNBC interview.
Buffett said he privately told Coke CEO Muhtar Kent that he opposed the compensation plan, but "didn't go to war with Coke in any way."
The billionaire investor also said that his regard for Bank of America wasn't diminished after the bank revealed an error in its recent reports to the Federal Reserve. He said that he not bothered that the bank had to suspend a long-awaited dividend increase and stock buyback due to the error.
In 2011, Buffett invested $5 billion in Bank of America in exchange for 6% interest and warrants to buy 700 million shares of stock at $7.14 apiece.
Buffett, 83, also addressed the topic of dividends for his own company, saying that Berkshire's shareholders had overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have encouraged it to pay a dividend.
A shareholder had proposed that Berkshire should start paying a dividend to share some of the company's roughly $49 billion in cash with investors. Buffett said he believes that reinvesting Berkshire's cash is worth more for shareholders than they would receive in a dividend.
Throughout the meeting, many attendees tweeted and blogged live updates.
Saturday morning tweets from TV anchor Susie Gharib and others brought up Buffett's stated view that social dynamics in board actions are important. "On corporate boardroom behavior: if you keep belching you'll be eating in the kitchen," Gharib tweeted.
She, and many others, also tweeted about a videotaped skit with Buffett and singer Paul Anka performing "My Way" with their own lyrics.
That duet was one of many offbeat performances and activities for attendees. On Saturday morning, there was a "newspaper tossing challenge" to see who was best at tossing the Omaha World-Herald to a doorstep that was part of an exhibit for Berkshire subsidiary Clayton Home. Microsoft co-founder and Berkshire Hathaway board member Bill Gates was one of the participants.
There was also an array of unusual products for shareholders to purchase during their weekend.
For instance, Berkshire's Fruit of the Loom unit sold "Berky"-branded boxer shorts for $6 in the exhibit hall. The underwear, featuring a cartoon image of Buffett and Munger, was advertised as "your best 'bottom line' investment."
Berkshire's Borsheims jewelry store offered loose diamonds in sizes up to 5 carats with a teeny-tiny laser-inscribed version of Buffett's signature. The price: from $5,000 to more than $200,000.
Contributing: The Associated Press