Before I went to my first BMW CCA Oktoberfest in 2017, I really had no idea what it was. I’d been to Oktoberfest in Germany once, but that was more consumption than combustion (engines).  But if you’re out west, this year you’ll have a greater opportunity to experience O’Fest first-hand—it’s in Palm Springs, California, September 27 through the first of October.

Michelin’s Mr. Bibendum has been a frequent O’Fest visitor.

More BMW CCA members have not attended Oktoberfest than have been to one. In fact, many may never get to an O’Fest, which is a little unfortunate, because these events are really cool, especially if you’re a BMW fan. It’s sort of like a U.S.-based roving Mecca for BMW enthusiasts. And for the first time since 2016, O’Fest is being held west of New Orleans—for SoCal folks, essentially the same 75-minute driving duration that it takes us to go twelve miles in neighboring Los Angeles.

Early rains didn’t prevent a great car show and concours at the 2019 O’Fest in Greenville, South Carolina.

Looking back at the few BMW CCA O’Fest events I’ve attended, I’m trying to pin down my favorite part. While so much about O’Fest is fun for me, I always eagerly anticipate the car shows. I’m a fan of car meets, car shows, cars—all of that. I try to attend meets where I can see new-to-me cars. They may be models I’ve already seen, but just done differently–or done properly. Maybe I’ll find models or builds that I hadn’t seen much or at all.

The car show at O’Fest tends to bring out a great variety of vehicles that I otherwise would not get to see, which is why I find myself looking forward to this coming event.  I’m hoping that many of my fellow SoCal BMW fans will roll out Friday afternoon for the car show and blend the best of both worlds.

For those of you who like getting out and driving, this O’Fest is for you—times two. Or three.

NOLA Motorsports Park was a highlight for many at the 2017 O’Fest.

In recent years, O’Fest has been held in Hilton Head, South Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina; Pittsburgh; New Orleans; and Monterey.  The event always seems to do a great job of integrating our cars and members with the local environment, bringing a taste of the surroundings to the attendees, many of whom travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles for their O’Fest celebration.

The desert mountains will lend a cool (or hot) backdrop to O’Fest activities like these at the BMW Performance Center.

This year, if you can get out to the desert (thankfully, the temps have tapered!) for more than just the Friday-night car show, you’ll have plenty of local exposure, even for SoCal residents.  Locals know that many of the roads in and around the Coachella Valley are incredible driving roads. Both visitors and locals alike will get to enjoy self-guided and planned drives, including the Doffo Winery Tour, home to a pretty cool motorcycle collection.

Lou Ann and Lonny Shirk try to grab some fun giveaways from vendors like Griot’s Garage in the Amica vendor hall.

The Amica vendor hall and Tech Talks have always been highlights of the event for me. O’Fest tends to attract BMW CCA members who legitimately care about their cars, and want to learn more about them.  The Amica vendor hall includes longtime BMW CCA supporters like BBS, Michelin, Hagerty, Griot’s Garage, La Jolla Independent (beer-truck sponsor!), XPEL, BMW NA, and more, while other sponsors like Akrapovic and Lockton will be participating on site, too.

Mr. Bib helps present the gymkhana awards to Mike Washington and André Noël at O’Fest 2017.

With so many industry experts gathered together, being able to talk to the vendor representatives at their booths is a great way to hear about the latest and greatest for both your cars and your BMW interests. Tech Talks add even more; I’ve learned more at the Tech Talks at O’Fests than I would from days of YouTube and TikTok clips (yeah, I said that), plus it always seems better to get information straight from the horse’s mouth.

The BMW Performance Center activities will be great, but will rush by rather quickly!

BMW CCA Oktoberfest usually includes track time of some sorts. With this one staged near one of the two BMW Performance Center facilities in the United States, there will be programs scheduled there, too.  It is always a great time to get out on the track driving Performance Center cars, but to do so at this event’s price point is a steal.

The BMW Performance Center will provide plenty of fun.

Because O’Fest moves around the country, it gives our fellow 60,000-plus BMW CCA members an opportunity to attend one closer to home—even though these events also tend to be a fantastic excuse for many to get out for some travel and see new parts of the country.

T. Ladd and Kristin Webb drove down to New Orleans from the Northeast in 2017.

One now-frequent traveler is Esteban Valentin, who drove up from Florida for the 2019 Greenville, South Carolina, O’Fest—and it seems like he’s hooked. “This will be my third O’Fest experience; it’s a great way to connect with all my BMW CCA friends and also meet new people from the West Coast,” Valentin says. “My first O’Fest was an amazing experience. It was an amazing turnout with a week full of events that got any enthusiast’s blood pumping! I also ended up buying another classic during my first O’Fest, so I have great memories of it!”

Esteban Valentin drove up to the 2019 O’Fest from Florida. He’ll be at this year’s event, but most likely flying.

Valentin is now the M Chapter president and a fan of any track time. “I am definitely looking forward to the M Chapter Day at Thermal at the tail end of O’Fest!” he adds. “I have never driven at Thermal, and being able to have an M Chapter event there will be an amazing experience!”

See you there!

If you’re one of those who have not been to a BMW CCA O’Fest, and especially if you’re within striking distance of Palm Springs, consider rolling out for as much of the five-day fun as possible— but at the very least, hit the car show Friday night, September 30. For more information, check out ofest.bmwcca.org. —Kyle van Hoften

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