For one reason or another, I had never attended the annual CigarFest put on by the folks at Cigars International...one of the big cigar retailers we are blessed to still have here in Pennsylvania. With thanks to my good friends at the Southside Cigar Club in Virginia, they offered me an extra ticket which I gladly paid them for.
Over the years, people have spoken to me about CigarFest and they either loved it or hated it. They loved it because of the number of cigars they received and the great herfing they engaged in, and they hated it because of the long lines, cattle herding and clogged areas of several thousand eager (and often drunk) cigar enthusiasts anxious to get their hands on "free" cigars. There are also those that dislike the method of acquiring tickets. Tickets are available on-line only and go on sale much like concert tickets...at this time on this day period. All tickets sell out within minutes! But you cannot just roll the dice, get online and hope to get some. You must first "pre-register" with a credit card for the opportunity to roll the dice, get online and hope to get some. There are several levels of tickets each offering different perks and privileges, and there is an individual ticket purchase limit as well.
The event this year was held at Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, PA (read Poconos) and extended over 4 - 5 days with smaller events at their nearby retail stores, brand parties here and there with the main event taking up most of the day Saturday. Focusing on the main event, the priciest tickets gained entrance in the morning, the next level at 12:30 and the final level around 2:30 with the event going until 7:00 p.m. (Lucky for everyone the weather was nice. I can't imagine what it would have been like had it been raining or storming.) Upon entrance, ticket holders are given a nice travel bag embroidered with a cigar brand sponsor with a small humidor filled with a variety of cigars and an ashtray both adorned with the event logo. Very nice. If you have a special shirt on (additional purchase), you get some added goodies. Most importantly, attendees are also given a coupon book. THAT is the arc of the covenant...the piece de resistance. You lose it, you're f*#@ed.
So, you make your way through the line, get your goods, enter the large convention-looking room, and it begins. I met some great folks, Doug and Paula from Indianapolis, listeners to the show, and they described what happens next as "trick or treating for cigars" or "organized looting." Perfect description. That coupon book contains a single coupon for each table or brand of cigars represented at CigarFest and entitles you to a single "free" cigar. And the race is on! Hundreds of people, largely fat guys like me, scurrying about trying to get their "free" cigars quickly. Veterans have a plan of attack. Newbies largely follow the herd. Many brands bring in half naked ladies to grab attention. That's fine. Most of them probably couldn't spell 'cigar,' but I get it and I am more than happy to ogle the T&A for a while...some more than others. Some brands will have their namesake on hand, others will have reps and or upper management types on hand as well, but if you are expecting some one-on-one time with a famous cigar maker, don't count on it. The nature of this event does not lend itself to Q&A. It's a handshake, maybe an autograph if you want one, and move along. There are 3000 goons, like you, trying to get through this place in a hurry and some of them have already been through the free booze tables several times.
So, you make your way through the heavy smoke to all the tables, use up all your coupons collecting about 40 or more cigars, down some hooch, and decide it's time to eat. An adjoining huge tent features food at both ends, a couple bars and a band with plenty of tables...and some fresh air. You park your ass, feed your smoke buzzed brain and relax for a while. You can go back to the exhibition floor, but without any coupons, there isn't much more to do. The host, Cigars International, has a couple locations set up to purchase cigars, but logistics dictate they consolidate things and offer a decent selection of brand samplers only as well as some t-shirts, etc. Raffle tickets are also for sale and a lot of great stuff is given away throughout the day...including a new Jeep.
Basically, that's it.
Oh, yeah! I forgot one very important thing. In fact, it is probably the most important thing about CigarFest...at least it was for me. The PEOPLE!
This is really a two, three, four or five day herf depending on your time, budget and tolerances. I met and herfed with a lot of great people, caught up with old friends, put faces with names, laughed much and smoked a lot of cigars...and I was only in on the two day plan arriving Friday afternoon and leaving Sunday morning. The line was easier to handle thanks to the group from New York and Connecticut behind us busting each other's balls. The big "trick or treat" event was almost a sidebar. It was fun, interesting, and certainly scored you some stock for the humidor, but I'm willing to bet that most folks, as they were roaming about the floor from table to table and bikini babe to bikini babe, were all thinking about who, where and when they were meeting afterward to continue the herf. Sure, most herfs don't cost you a thing...a couple friends, a front porch or garage, some bullshit...and you're golden, but sometimes the opportunity is there to ramp that herf experience up several notches and it will cost you.
Spend money to smoke cigars with relative strangers? It's a herf thing...you wouldn't understand.
CigarFest - if you go ONLY for the "organized looting" of "free" cigars, you probably don't get it.
CigarFest by Cigars International for the pure herf factor - PICK IT!
Like a shot to the eyeball, it's Blowin' Smoke #132!
We finally had OUR chance to celebrate the assassination of bin Laden by our US Navy SEALs with a full house herf and a symbolic pairing of a Gurkha Assassin cigar and a Skull Splitter Orkney Ale. Find out how they did.
We also talked about El Freako's recent trek to CigarFest and the upcoming W. PA Cigar Crawl. Plus, we got our hands on a high tech toy and tried it out on Kyle. Of course, we also had listener emails, weird stories and help from our friends on Twitter...not to mention another report in our investigative series about what the chicks are reading, and a new 5 Things.
So, send your courier out for pizza, grab a big stick and join the herf right here on Blowin' Smoke #132!
Feeling a little sun grown ourselves, it's Blowin' Smoke #133!
What a great day for a herf! No rain...actual sunshine along with cold beer, tasty rum and brand new Cigar of the Day...the San Cristobal Seleccion Del Sol Toro. That means "sun grown" for you Pabst drinkers. (Wait! We're Pabst drinkers.) Anyway, the Cretins were fired up for nice herf and thrilled to welcome Sam Leccia to the show to talk about his newly formed Sam Leccia Cigar Co. and what he has planned for his first and future offerings to the cigar faithful.
Plus, we checked out listener emails & phone calls, found some weird stories like we always do, and educated ourselves with another peek inside the world of what the chicks are reading. We also offered up a new, but old, 5 Things.
So, slather on some sunscreen, don those cool shades, and fire up a nice stick for Blowin' Smoke #133!