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2013 Big Smoke Las Vegas Evenings
G. Clay Whittaker
Posted: November 12, 2013
By 1:15 on Friday afternoon a queue had already begun to form outside the doors to the convention center at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, home to this year's Big Smoke Las Vegas Evenings. It's a new record, in fact. The 18-year-old, weekend-long smokers' festival put on by Cigar Aficionado has always drawn long lines for its famous evenings, when patrons have the chance to meet dozens of cigar stars, consume food and top-shelf beverages as they collect a bevy of incredible cigars. But this year participants lined up more than five hours early to be the head of the line, which eventually stretched through much of the hallway leading to the convention center.
At 6:30 p.m. the doors swung open and, with a well-mannered horde mentality, thousands from across the United States and around the world (guests came from as far as Australia) flooded the grand space, darting in different directions to light up handrolled, premium cigars and be first to meet the folks behind the brands.
After nearly two decades, patrons of Big Smoke Las Vegas aren't just showing earlier, they're also working smarter. A significant number of guests in groups strategized on how to maximize their efficiency, and many split their tickets in order to gather their smokes more efficiently.
"We just gotta share our tickets," said Calvin Hudson, who came in from Houston with several friends. "We've got a little table where we're gonna meet back and split them up."
Another growing tradition at Big Smoke is the group uniform. Oja, California, natives George Conrad, Mark Happach, Gene Berban and Chris Williams dressed alike in black shirts printed with the name of their hometown.
Tatuaje brand owner Pete Johnson has a long history in Vegas—all 18 years to be exact. "I used to come to the Big Smokes early on and pass out cigars for the Fuentes, the Ashton group, but officially my own cigar? I think this is my third year," said Johnson, who stepped away momentarily to autograph a canvas bag for an admirer.
Johnson says the best part about the Big Smoke is actually talking to the smokers. "Having people who come by and say ‘This is my favorite booth' or ‘I love your product'—that's the best. And aside from that it's really just coming to hang out with the other manufacturers, because it's one big family, and we all have a good time seeing each other."
Click Image to Enlarge
Patrons broke between cigar-collecting rounds to find sliders and snacks provided by the Mirage—pasta stations, trays filled with iced bottles of water, and a pastry bar that included bacon maple cupcakes kept stomachs full as everyone wound their way through lines that, in some cases, stretched back 50 heads or more.
One of those lines formed in front of the Alec Bradley booth, where vice president of marketing Sam Phillips once again broke out his forehead-mounted GoPro and worked the enthusiastic crowd with giveaways.
Short breaks allowed everyone to marvel at timepieces from watchmakers Carl F. Bucherer, Hublot, Bremont, Oris and Arizona Fine Time. Humidor maker Daniel Marshall was on hand with a selection of his handmade products, as were the folks from Boveda humidification and Rabbit Air air purification.
Comments 13 comment(s)
JOHN LONG — November 12, 2013 11:23pm ET
Johnnie Farmer — Seffner, FL, USA, — November 13, 2013 12:02am ET
Todd Becker — San Diego, California, United States, — November 13, 2013 12:30am ET
Frank Robles — Santa Ana, CA, USA, — November 13, 2013 1:24am ET
nick jackman — shoreline, washington, — November 13, 2013 8:51am ET
Jeremiah Carroll — reston, va, US, — November 13, 2013 9:11am ET
George Ricehouse — Lewisville, Texas, USA, — November 13, 2013 3:30pm ET
Errol Wilks — Richmond, Texas, USA, — November 13, 2013 5:13pm ET
Bill Sornstein — Santa Ana, CA, USA, — November 13, 2013 7:04pm ET
Allan Heinze — Mays Landing, NJ, USA, — November 13, 2013 7:22pm ET
Ryan Wellner — November 13, 2013 7:42pm ET
David Yoshida — November 19, 2013 11:04am ET
Michael Riviera — Hilo, Hawaii, USA, — November 21, 2013 2:19am ET
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