Morning rays of sunlight bathe the tobacco fields of the La Canela farm in the Cibao valley, an area of the Dominican Republic known for its hot, dry microclimate, and perfect for growing strong tobacco. It’s a picturesque plantation and the chosen spot for a new concept, something called the Members’ Field Day, a first in ProCigar Festival history. This year, the host is Litto Gomez, co-owner of La Canela and the man responsible for La Flor Dominicana cigars.
Among the verdant rows of tobacco plants, a large white tent provides shade for the 450 cigar fans who came from around the world—at least 20 countries—to attend this weeklong cigar festival, and from the relaxed looks on their faces, the trip was worth it. In one hand, everyone holds a drink; in the other, a box. Instead of cigars, the box contains a set of baseball cards featuring portraits of various members of ProCigar, the organization of major Dominican cigar manufacturers and tobacco growers who’ve been throwing this party for the last 13 years. Guests are encouraged to exchange their cards with the appropriate ProCigar member, chat them up a bit and receive one of their signature cigars in return.
This was just one of the many activities of the annual ProCigar Festival, a celebration of Dominican cigar culture where brand owners and cigarmakers are treated like true major-league all-stars. The festival took place from February 16 to 21 and was a smoke-filled affair that allowed attendees to light up plenty of Dominican cigars while touring the factories and farms of their favorite cigarmakers. During the day, guests saw cigar factories and tobacco fields, and then at night they would gather with their cigarmaker hosts for extravagant dinners—and, of course, more cigars.
The celebration began at the luxurious Casa de Campo in La Romana, a cigar-friendly coastal resort that offers stunning vistas of the Caribbean Sea, three world-class golf courses, excellent food and drink options, as well as a number of activities. While this leg feels more like a vacation than a cigar festival, attendees were still able to take a tour of Tabacalera de García, the largest cigar factory in the Dominican Republic.
The rest of the week centered around the city of Santiago about four hours away, and was more cigar-centric. Guests were free to choose from a variety of tours that included more field and factory visits. The nightly galas were kicked off by a welcome dinner party at the Parque Central de Santiago and continued with the annual White Dinner Party at Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración, which had been transformed from a city monument to a smoking fete filled with music, food and drink.
The week concluded with the final gala dinner and auction at Centro Español, where one-of-a-kind items were put on the block for various charities in the Dominican Republic. This year’s auction raised $178,700 for the Voluntariado Jesús con los Niños and the Hospicio San Vicente de Paúl, two nonprofits dedicated to helping ill children and low-income elders, as well as a new charity called A Home For a Family, which aims to build housing for disadvantaged yet deserving artisans.
ProCigar is an organization of the major Dominican cigar manufacturers committed to preserving the quality, standards and international reputation of Dominican cigars. Members include: Altadis U.S.A., Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., Davidoff, De Los Reyes Cigars, E.P.C. Cigar Co., General Cigar Co., La Aurora, La Flor Dominicana, PDR Cigars, Quesada Cigars and Tabacalera Palma.