WARNING: This is an off-topic post. If you are only interested in backpacking-themed posts, then ignore this one. This post is also out-of-order when compared to other posts, but the other posts were more time-sensitive.
For those that do not know, which is probably all of you, I have many hobbies that I enjoy. One of them is cigars, both the collecting and the smoking of. To me, cigars are a relaxing experience, forcing me to sit still for upwards of an hour or two, often allowing me to pair a cigar with some nice bourbon or craft beer. Cigars are very similar to wines, in that each one has its own distinct flavors and nuances, which change with time, and are delicately sensitive to storage temperatures, humidity, and light conditions.
I was lucky enough to obtain tickets to the always sold-out CigarFest event held by Cigars International at the Split Rock Resort in the Poconos. The ticket got me into one of two days of the actual festival event, but there were also numerous “open to the public” events at the resort including concerts, a special pipe smoking seminar, and giveaways all over the place! Simultaneously, all of the CI stores had events going on throughout the weekend, with some major cigar makers on site for meet and greets, along with some great deals and lots of swag. And boy, did I collect a lot!
The day before my “ticket entry”, I stopped at one of the main stores for Cigars International, a place I have come to know quite well. The staff is always very friendly and extremely knowledgeable there, and I always feel at home when I visit. One of the best things about this store is that the lounge has TWO fully stocked bars on site, with a couple big televisions at each, giving that portion of the shop a sports bar feel. And the shop has agreements with the restaurants nearby that you can call in a carry out order, and the restaurant staff will bring it to the cigar shop for you. I have spent many lazy weekend afternoons there, drinking craft beers and smoking cigars while watching whatever sports are being broadcast. This day, I was there for the Drew Estate Cigars event they were hosting. For those that do not know, Drew Estate is one of my favorite makers. Now you know – I suggest writing it down, as my birthday is coming soon.
Back on topic, I spent a good few hours there, people watching, eating lunch, enjoying a few adult beverages in child size cups, and just relaxing. Then I headed up to the resort to check into my hotel room.
That evening, I attended a concert sponsored by Alec Bradley cigars. I am not a huge fan of A.B. cigars, but a few are ok. The concert, though, was outstanding. The band played inside the circus tent-turned food tent for a good long time, and was even doing some requests from the crowd. Throughout the concert, the staff of CI was giving away Alec Bradley swag, and numerous boxes of cigars. Did I win? Nope. Never do. Good thing the music was good, though. And the tent made the chilly night air tolerable, so we could be outside and enjoy a cigar without having to be bundled up to the nines.
My ticket included a breakfast feast prior to the main event opening, so off to wait in line I went. Thankfully, I am normally an early riser and was able to beat the majority of the crowd. Once suitably stuffed, we all transitioned to the line to get into the main arena. There were over 50 vendors there, mostly cigar makers but also a few accessory manufacturers. As you entered, you were given a nice duffle bag with the event logo on it, and a humidor and ash tray already inside. I would find out later that there were over 40 cigars inside the humidor. As you enter the main hall, you are given a “coupon book” with numbered pages. As you go to a booth, there is a booth number displayed, to which you trade the corresponding numbered coupon for a cigar. At the end of the main event, prior to me purchasing anything, I had well over 100 cigars. And there were great deals on samplers going on, for which you could collect even more free cigars by showing your receipt to the vendor. Pretty sure I do not have to buy any cigars for at least a year!
They even raffled off a customized Jeep. With every sampler purchased, you were entered into a drawing for lots of free cigars, accessories, gift certificates, “Man Cave” setups, and such. The grand prize was a new Jeep. Obviously, I did not win.
There was another concert that night, but my knee was aching from being on my feet most of the day, so I skipped out on it. As the day progressed, I found the slow “shuffling” walk to be bothersome to my knee, although walking around the lodge at my normal gate did not irritate my leg at all. In hindsight, I should have broken the day into sections a bit more and did a little less random wandering around the event. Live and learn. The resort’s pool and hot tub made for a nice end to the day, especially since I was the only one there. Solitude is such a nice thing.
One thing that I did not like to a degree was that the event organizers were treating the festivities as if it were a rock concert, always screaming into the microphone trying to get the crowd “pumped and excited”. I understand they want to increase sales, and excited people buy lots, but for me, cigars are supposed to be a relaxing, enjoyable experience. I suppose the focus of the event was more on the acquisition of cigars rather than the enjoyment of cigars, and that is well and fine, it just was not what I expected.
If I go next year, I will do it differently, too. There were people who planned ahead and brought pop-up tents and grills, and were tailgating in the parking lot. We were able to go in and out of the festival all we wanted, and because I had gotten there so early for breakfast, my truck was pretty close to the main entrance. It would have been more enjoyable if I was with a small group of friends and we were grilling out, sitting around in chairs, smoking and talking. Instead, I was walking around solo, talking to vendors and some random people, but mostly doing my own thing. Next time I will do it better.
All in all, I cannot complain about the weekend, though. I had a good time people watching, I walked away with a lot of good swag and cigars, many of which I have never tried before. I was even able to get a short walk around a pond to exercise the leg a bit. With the exception of the distance I had to drive to get there, there is not much I would complain about. Now I just need to find some time to sit on the balcony and enjoy all of these new smokes… and figure a way to protect them in my backpack, so I can take some with me!
I promise you that I have more backpacking-related posts coming. I am working on a few different posts, but they are taking longer than I had expected. Go eat some Oreos and be patient. If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.
Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”