When Cuba and Nicaragua canceled their cigar festivals this year, it seemed inevitable that ProCigar in the Dominican Republic was doomed to suffer the same fate. But neither the party planners nor the cigarmakers at ProCigar were as willing to cancel their event two years in a row. After weighing the risks, the decision was made—the ProCigar Festival was back.
Cigar fans came from all over the world eager to return to the island of Hispaniola for the Dominican Republic’s cultural celebration of its home-grown, premium tobacco and the first major cigar festival since the start of the pandemic. The decision to move ahead with the show, however, was not made lightly. Nobody at ProCigar wanted this to turn into a Covid super-spreader event.
“We analyzed all the statistical information from the state agencies responsible for preserving the health of citizens, so we knew it was safe and possible to hold the festival,” assures ProCigar president Hendrik Kelner. “ProCigar has a commitment towards our sector, we took all control measures, and we achieved it.”
While canceled in 2021 due to Covid-19, ProCigar almost defiantly held its 14th festival in February, and according to the organization, it attracted around 450 international guests from more than 20 countries—about the same numbers as the last ProCigar festival in 2020. Along with 400 local attendees, most of whom are in the industry, ProCigar estimates total attendance to have reached 850 people. All guests had to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.
Since its premiere in 2008, the ProCigar festival has served as an up-close, behind-the-scenes exhibition of the Dominican Republic’s premium cigar industry, offering picturesque outings to tobacco fields and bustling factory tours that demystify the entire cigarmaking process. Centered in Santiago, it can be described as agritourism for the cigar set, and every evening ends with the industry convening for a smoke-friendly gala dinner. The warm weather makes this festival an attractive, mid-winter escape, and guests are typically given more cigars than they can carry. Naturally, smoking is constant throughout every event, day or night.
One of the largest draws is being able to meet the men and women behind some of the world’s most famous cigars. Everyone from Carlos Fuente Jr., Guillermo León and Jochy Blanco to Litto Gomez, Manolo Quesada and Nirka Reyes are there to personally give tours and walk you through the entire production process.
Each day, guests are given a choice of itinerary, and this year’s participating manufacturers included: La Flor Dominicana, De Los Reyes Cigars, General Cigar Co., Altadis U.S.A., E.P. Carrillo, Quesada Cigars, La Aurora, Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., Tabacalera Palma and PDR Cigars.
All the events have a relaxed casual air, save for the formal evening dinner and charity auction on the last night, which has always been held at the Centro Español in Santiago. This year’s auction showcased an array of rare and one-of-a-kind humidors, ultimately raising $350,000 for three charities: Voluntariado Jesús con los Niños (to benefit ill children), Sociedad San Vicente de Paúl (to help low-income seniors) and A Home For My Family, a housing program initiated by ProCigar to assist the struggling employees of its member companies.
Formed in 1992, ProCigar is an organization dedicated to maintaining the quality standards and international reputation of Dominican cigars. Every major manufacturer of premium cigars in the Dominican Republic is part of ProCigar.