At the height of Tampa’s La Verbena Del Tobaco Festival. there were cigar factories operating all across Ybor City. The war was over and the engine of society seemed to be accelerating. By all accounts, it was a very special era in cigar production. Home to well over 150 cigar factories at one point or another, Cigar City had become a true community.
What happened next would appear to the public as though it happened in a single instant. We know it as The Great Depression. Even during those strange times, the festival took place. Powerful stories are still told throughout the industry, to this day, of competing factories supporting one another with materials, time, and resources – even as the number of factories kept declining.
By 1996, it had been many years since anyone had hosted or experienced that kind of event on a large scale. A local radio personality didn’t want everyone to forget what that experience could be like, and the modern interpretation of the of the festival was born. While the radio station took on the planning and execution of that first festival, ownership and stewardship of the event would pass through many hands – including to local Ybor historical publication Cigar City Magazine in 2015. Just over a year later, with the support and resources of industry titans J.C. Newman – the only remaining factory of the 150+ that once existed – and Arturo Fuente, the event was officially recognized as the largest cigar festival in the world. To this day, somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 attendees enjoy the event every year that it’s held.
As a thank you to everyone who supports the event – less than a week out from year’s official (and unofficial) festival activities getting underway – the organizers have eliminated the cost of general admission. Anyone who already purchased a basic GA ticket has been refunded. If you aren’t local to the area or simply can’t make it to Centennial Park on December 4th, there is also a virtual option. You can sign up for your free ticket right now or explore additional packages ranging from $25 to $199. Each of these extra levels includes varying combinations of benefits including drink tickets, raffle entries, cigars, a cutter and lighter, etc. Festival weekend kicks off on Friday the 2nd at The Grand Cathedral and ends there as well, with an after-party planned for Sunday the 4th. In between? Live music, rolling demonstrations, and previously unreleased blends for starters!
Additional sponsors include Boveda, Espinosa, La Flor Dominicana, AJ Fernandez, Aladino, and Aganorsa. Check out the full list here.
Have you attended the festival before? Had you heard of it before? Let everyone know in the comments below!