Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cigarfest 2013 - A reflection

Cigarfest2013 -- a Hugh success!

It's been a couple of weeks now since I experienced Cigarfest 2013. Now as I reflect back on that time, I didn't have extraordinary expectations when I went but extraordinary things happened while I was there.  I initially thought everyone would just smoke a bunch of cigars to get rid of any pent up desire to "light em up".  However, this Fest was so much more than that.

Although all enjoyed a variety of well-crafted premium cigars, I came away from Cigarfest 2013 with a great appreciation of the enormous span of the people who enjoy a cigar and their reason to indulge.  Everyone I spoke with was deeply concerned about the direction of our great nation: too much government, too much regulation in the name of protecting us, and spending too much money without understanding the consequence of rapid spending habits.
These Americans were also concerned that we are in a place where individual responsibility has been supplanted with government regulation. It is like we are not smart enough to make our own decisions, only our elected (and appointed) officials know enough to tell us what to do and how to act.  Cigarfest folks want to just smoke a cigar in peace, without angst, and without everyone telling them where and when they can and cannot smoke.  It is not that cigar smokers are not sensitive to the fact that some do not like cigar smoke, it is just that accross the country more and more restrictive rules are in place because the non-cigar smoker might be offended. Don't cigar smokers also have rights? If you don't like cigar smoke then stay away from where people smoke cigars -- that is the sentiment expressed by those I had the privledge to talk with. Cigar smokers may have to become the next prohibition! Surely, we have room in our country for both groups. After, cigars are not cigarettes.

I was impressed with the camaraderie and enthusiasm displayed by all in attendance.  People were polite, civil, and genuine. Time and time again, people demostrated great respect and difference to each other. Didn't seem to matter where you were from, what you did to make a living, or any other trivial things we use to compare ourselves. It only mattered what your favorite cigar was and what you thought about the new lines that have been released.

At the end of the day, Cigarfest 2013 was well-organized, well-attended and well-loved by those who came. I am sincerely looking forward to cigar Fest 2014. Thank you Cigar International for putting on such a great show!


Monday, May 6, 2013

CIGARFEST 2013 After Glow

As of today, it's been a week since I returned from Cigarfest 2013. I have had a chance to recuperate enjoy cigars and talk to some of the cigar nuts from Cigarfest 2013.

So I thought I would start today off with the tail of the boss going to Cigarfest 2013.
Leaving from Cedar Rapids Iowa, I flew on United Airlines to Chicago O'Hare international Airport with an arrival time of 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening. Being blind and making your way through the old O’Hare airport, changing from Terminal 1 to the next terminal, then back to Terminal 1 or whatever terminal is no easy task. Luckily, I had a four hour layover.

I did, eventually, end up at the right gate (at 5:30 p.m.), only to be told that the flight was already running 30 minutes late. Why? The FAA and the furlough of air traffic controllers. Sigh…the government.

At 6:05 p.m., I was informed that we were changing to another gate. At this point I’m still not too worried since the plane as supposed to leave until 9:17 p.m. Rather than bore you with all the details, I will just tell you that I was still sitting on the airplane at O’Hare at 10:45 p.m. (after three more gate changes), waiting to leave for Allentown.

At 11:23 p.m., I was still sitting in the plane, only this time on the edge of the runway waiting for maintenance repair. It just never instills a lot of confidence in the airlines when you are sitting on the runway dealing with a maintenance issue. By this time, I had gotten two text messages from my business partner that he was already sitting in Allentown Airport with the rental car waiting for me to arrive.

At 00:07 (for those not used to military time that seven minutes after midnight) Allentown time, the plane landed. I sprint (a relative term) off to baggage claim, grabbed my one bag, and met my business partner John. We jump in the car and drive another hour north to White Haven, Pennsylvania, where we were staying near the Split Rock Resort in PA.

It is now 1:30 a.m.  John and I check-in and go to our rooms for the evening. Thank goodness for a smoking room to have a quick cigar before literally passing out for the night. The Cigarfest awaits us later that day!

I met John downstairs for breakfast at the hotel. It is now 9:15 a.m. We decide to follow the schedule and head back down the Allentown so that we can go to either the Hamburg Superstore for the CI nation or to the Bethlehem Superstore for cigars international nation.

We decide to head to the Hamburg Superstore so that we can meet with Nick Perdomo and the Perdomo cigar people. I am very glad we chose this route first as I was overdue another cigar already today. Smoking is allowed in the superstore. The staff and people at the superstore were phenomenal. I personally spent an hour in the blend room going through some of the personalized and private blended cigars that cigar international makes.

For cigar nuts this was as close to heaven as you could get. My personal preference is for a full body or extra full-bodied Madero cigars. I am very particular and picky about my cigars. Since I'm blind and can smell and really enjoy the aroma, John had a rather hard time pulling me out of the blend room.

We then spent well over 30 min. talking to Arthur and Joe of the Perdomo group. The time and education was well worth it. We then purchased a box from the crop of 2006 double Madero cigars and Nick Perdomo personally signed it “To my friends at I Spy Cigars.”  He is an awesome man and great person that I now count as a friend. I thoroughly enjoyed spending the time with him, Joe, and Arthur.

At the same time, we ran into Moose from the DREW ESTAES group and spent another hour of cigar education and information with him and the DREW ESTATES guys; another great bunch of guys. If you want an education about Drew Estates, I think there's none better than Moose himself short of the owners or the blenders at Drew Estates. 

After several rounds of pictures of the superstore, and looking at the details in the shelving and cigars and how they were being cared for, we decided to head out to the Bethlehem Superstore. Let's just say this was our fact-finding tour to help enhance I Spy Cigars, our store and smoking lounge in Iowa and San Antonio Texas.

It was time for another cigar at the Bethlehem superstore, which we enjoyed while we walk through and admired everything. All the staff at Bethlehem superstore were phenomenal; knowledgeable and extremely helpful and in everything that they did. 

We then went to the Split Rock Galleria to the smoking area lounge and got ready for the Man-of-War cigar people to come in and talk to us about Man-of-War cigars and meet AJ Fernandez, and Shorty Rossi and, of course, Man-of-War women!

We sat at a table with a father and son team that had come to Cigarfest for a number of years, Gary and Gary. While the younger Gary was watching the baseball game on his iPad, the elder Gary enlightening us with the ins and outs of cigarfests. He was giving us advice based on where we wanted to be, how we wanted to get to where we wanted to go, what we needed to do, what we didn't need to do, and all the good stuff that went with cigarfest; swapping cigars cigar stories and talking. Also the free beer from Sam Adams was awesome also. After having several cigars and being lubricated with Sam Adams, the afternoon with getting near an end.

Then it was back to the hotel for a quick nap before we left to spend part of the evening with Gary Sheffield and Rocky Patel. I am ever so happy and grateful that we did go back to the hotel for couple hours as Thursday evening got very long.(This meeting was another full blog yet to come)

We returned to the hotel at about 11:30 p.m. After 30 minutes in the hot tub, another cigar, and evening coffee, I crashed for the night.

Get ready for breakfast and start of Cigarfest 2013!
It's Friday morning, first day that the cigar nuts are allowed enter the tent for breakfast and all the beginning ceremonies for the Cigarfest.

The C I Nation women holding the banner, military veterans holding the US flag, honorary veteran cigar nuts, led by bagpipes and fife and drum start the opening ceremonies under the tent, post the colors and the celebration that is Cigarfest 2013 started.

Three thousand cigar nuts enter the tent for an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast. The C I models run back and forth with Cigarfest t-shirts for sale. The cigar nuts are on their toes. For some reason they would not let me “look” at the models. I guess they thought that the braille method was a little tacky. After John described what two or three of them were wearing, which was not much more than a couple patches of cloth and string, I fully understood why the braille method was not allowed. The girls would put on a t-shirt, go off into the crowd, and within a matter of seconds be without t-shirt again. After pictures or whatever, they ran back got another t-shirt and would sell it right off their back again.

Then it was time to get in line to get all the goodies for the early cigar nuts. A sports duffel bag and a humidor packed with so much stuff that when I put it on my shoulder it felt like I had 20 extra pounds already. I still had a cigar coupon book which you took to each vendor to get more cigars as you walk through Cigarfest 2013. Within two hours my duffel bag had over 180 cigars in it!
It was time to sit down and take a breather and watch the next group go in. At 12:30 p.m. an all-you-can-eat lunch was served. This was dry rub barbecue beef, chicken, sausage, pork, or sweet barbecue sauce on beef, chicken, sausage, or pork along with potato salad coleslaw bread and of course the beer. Other adult beverages continue to flow some free, some not so free.

And again, time for another cigar. The only problem now is which one to take and enjoy out of the 180 plus in my duffel bag!

It is now 2 p.m. in the afternoon and John and I have been going almost steadily since Wednesday evening. We decide to head back to the hotel relax, and start this all over again Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Yours truly has to get to the hot tub otherwise yours truly would not be moving too much come nine o'clock tomorrow morning.

8 a.m. Saturday morning and John and I meet and head back for Cigarfest and get in line for breakfasts. After opening ceremonies, we head in and get all the freebies and goodies again for our second day as cigar nuts.

Having been through the first day, we knew how to organize ourselves and this time instead of being done at noon we were actually finished at 11 a.m. We head back in the tent had some awesome coffee and smoke some awesome cigars, again having to decide which of the 180 plus cigars to choose from.

We then stayed for lunch again this time it was either Cajun barbecue or sweet barbecue sauce all-you-can-eat chicken or pork sausages. Along with Cajun beans with a sausage in it that had enough spices to light up your life without even using matches or cigar lighter.

Then I got in a very short line for a straight razor shave. Free for cigar nuts. Awesome shave.

John went picked up a couple 100 cigar humidors some other accessories and we headed out back to Bethlehem to the superstore for a meeting the people from AJ Fernandez cigar line.

On the trip there we had stopped at the hotel to get all the goodies from the first day and added them to the goodies of the second day, plus the purchases that we had made. We had figured out it was not going to fit in our luggage. So after spending another two hours at the Bethlehem Superstore for Cigar International, we decided to track down a UPS store or FedEx store to send our goodies home.

We finally found a FedEx store opened at 6 p.m. and went in there and assembled our boxes. I sent home a box weighing 50 pounds along with a flat box that had metal poster in it and a tube with cigar posters signed by different people for the office and the I Spy Cigar shop.

Having completed this, we headed back to the hotel organize our stuff. I headed to the hot tub and then back to the room for couple good evening cigars.

Sunday morning 8:30 a.m. John and I have decided were heading out to the Hamburg Superstore for keg and eggs with Drew States.

Having arrived at the superstore we decided it was also time for coffee. We ran into Adam, the owner of Benchwarmers Coffee outside the superstore. A man after my own heart, he is roasting coffee and cold brewing or slow brewing the coffee of your choice right in front of you. We spent an hour talking with Adam and over the time that we were at the superstore and he was handling the coffee, we came to agreement that I Spy Cigars will be carrying Benchwarmers Coffee, both ground beans whole beans and bottled cold coffee. More to come on that as the days and weeks go by. All I can say is awesome coffee, awesome way of putting it together. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy being a coffee snob besides being the cigar nut.

We then picked up DREW ESTATE cigar eggs, one Madero, one Connecticut and promptly went and had scrambled egg breakfast out on the patio of the Hamburg superstore. Then, of course, being at the superstore I had a go spend some time in the blend room.

John and I then spent the rest afternoon at the hotel working on plans to enhance I Spy Cigars and I Spy Cigars mobile operations in Texas and expanding the smoking lounge in Iowa. We went to bed early that evening as my flight, if it left at all, was leaving at 5:30 a.m.

It is now 3 a.m. and we’re headed down the road back to the Allentown Airport. I get on my plane at 5:30 a.m. and actually arrive in Chicago O'Hare 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Don't ask me what happened, but I've never been in early on a flight to Chicago O'Hare ever before. I find my gate. I am supposed to leave at 12 noon then get a noticed that due to maintenance problems, the plane were flying on will be an hour late arriving. It takes hour and a half of maintenance on the ground. I finally get into Cedar Rapids at the Eastern Iowa Airport at 2 p.m.

Finally back home, I’m not anxiously awaiting the arrival of my box of goodies on Thursday via FedEx. More to come on the arrival of the box and all the goodies in the next blog.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why Join CIgar Rights of America?

After finding this article this alone is one reason to join and support the Cigar Rights of America. Being one of the Iowa Ambassadors I work very hard to keep this nanny governments hand off my cigars. You should too.

Here from the Washington Post today:

Snuff that cigar

The government goes after a congressional favorite

The U.S. economy may not be growing, but the government sure is. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had explicit legal authority to regulate cigarettes and chewing tobacco only since 2009, and now the agency wants to go beyond the congressional mandate to shape up the American cigar industry.
Common sense goes up in smoke. The FDA wants to expand the categories of tobacco that fall under its authority and the targets are cigar aficionados, with the usual bundle of taxes, red tape and sales restrictions. This might not be so easy, since some Very Important People smoke cigars.
This all started in 1996, when President Clinton, who fancies a stogie, told the FDA to push Congress aside and regulate tobacco under its own authority. Cigarette marketing rules will expand to cigars under the dubious claim that rules were needed to “protect the children.” This should hardly apply to cigars; it’s not cool in teenage circles to light up a stogie. Not many teenagers can afford to pay $10 or more for a premium cigar. Retailers are prohibited now from selling cigars to anyone under 18, and cigar stores card anyone who appears to be underage.
But a bureaucrat never lets facts and common sense get in the way of seizing more turf. The FDA is mulling a range of possibilities, such as banning the sale of cigars online, which represent a significant portion of cigar sales; new and punitive taxes, and limits on “commemorative cigars.” Cigar-tobacco blends would have to be approved by the FDA. Popular events like the “Big Smoke” in Las Vegas and even walk-in humidors in cigar shops would be prohibited. Just about everything a cigar smoker likes appears to be on the table.
Cigar retailers are upset about the bad things they see coming their way. “If the FDA regulates the premium tobacco industry in the same way they do with other tobacco, it will be devastating, harming tens of thousands of domestic jobs and thousands of small ‘mom-and-pop’ Main Street businesses,” says Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.
There’s bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill, where cigars are popular in the cloakrooms on both sides of the aisle. The two senators from Florida, Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, have introduced legislation to snuff the FDA’s prospective rules. Rep. Bill Posey, Florida Republican, has introduced the companion bill to prohibit imposing cigarette regulations on premium cigar tobacco. This time, the federal nannies have quit preaching and gone to meddling.
Winston Churchill, who fancied a cigar with his champagne, once explained the allure of the stogie: “Smoking cigars is like falling in love. First, you are attracted by its shape; you stay for its flavor, and you must always remember never, never to let the flame go out.” Alas, bureaucrats are immune to romance.

Now get out there and help tell congress and the FDA NO NO NO.  Sign up now and remember Dr Robin Rushlo State of Iowa Cigar Rights Ambassador sent you.  Sign up , sign the petition and keep track of your cigar and smoking rights.

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