The ProCigar Festival returns to the Dominican Republic

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Cuba has canceled its cigar festival this year. Nicaragua too. But no setbacks deterred ProCigar, and in the Dominican Republic, the party was back. Cigar lovers came from all over the world eager to return to the island of Hispaniola for the Dominican Republic’s cultural celebration of premium tobacco and the first major cigar festival since the pandemic began.

Carlos Fuente Jr. gives a tour of Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., a large factory that houses brands such as Arturo Fuente Don Carlos and Fuente Fuente OpusX.

“We analyzed all the statistical information from state agencies responsible for safeguarding the health of citizens, so we knew it was safe and possible to hold the festival,” assured ProCigar President Henke Kelner. “ProCigar has a commitment to our industry, we have taken all the control measures, and we have achieved it.”

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The climate is hot and dry at the La Canela farm, where Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana talks about the unique characteristics of his tobacco.

Although canceled in 2021 due to Covid-19, ProCigar held its 14th festival last week and, according to the organization, it attracted around 450 international guests from more than 20 countries, about the same number as the last ProCigar festival in 2020. With 400 local attendees, most of whom are in the industry, ProCigar estimates the total attendance reached 850 people. All guests had to present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.

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La Aurora is the oldest premium cigar factory in the Dominican Republic. The rollers here are busy making a host of brands, including Fernando León and La Aurora Preferidos.

Since its inception in 2008, the ProCigar Festival has served as an up-close, behind-the-scenes exhibit of the Dominican Republic’s premium cigar industry, offering scenic outings in tobacco fields and bustling factory tours that demystify the entire cigar-making process. Each evening ends with an industry meeting for a convivial gala dinner. The weather makes this festival a warm mid-winter getaway, and guests are usually given more cigars than they can carry. Naturally, smoking is constant throughout every event, day and night.

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A ProCigar tradition, La Fête Blanche is held at the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración in downtown Santiago. This is one of three gala evenings.

One of the biggest draws is getting to meet the men and women behind some of the world’s most famous cigars. Everyone from Carlos Fuente Jr., Guillermo Leon and Jochy Blanco to Litto Gomez, Manolo Quesada and Nirka Reyes are there to personally give tours and guide you through the production process.

Guests have their choice of itinerary each day, and this year’s participating makers included: La Flor Dominicana, De Los Reyes Cigars, General Cigar Co., Altadis USA, EP Carrillo, Quesada Cigars, La Aurora, Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., Tabacalera Palma and PDR Cigars. If you missed a visit during the week, Friday served as ProCigar Field Day, a quiet morning and afternoon where you can meet the cigar makers and puff in a tent set up on a tobacco field.

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Prolific leaf grower Siegfried Maruschke of José Mendez & Co. quickly befriends a festival guest as he shows off fields of tobacco that will be used in some of the Montecristo lineages.

Past ProCigar festivals have started in La Romana at the resort town of Casa de Campo and have featured beach activities and a tour of the Tabacalera de Garcia d’Altadis factory, but this year the festival was a little shorter. , starting in Santiago, which is the epicenter of the Dominican Republic’s cigar-making industry.

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No matter the tour or the evening, there was no shortage of cigars at the ProCigar Festival.

All of the events have a fairly casual air, except for the official dinner and the charity auction on the last night, which always took place at the Centro Español de Santiago. This year’s auction featured a range of rare and unique humidors, ultimately raising $350,000 for three charities: Voluntariado Jesús con los Niños (to benefit sick children), Sociedad San Vincent de Paúl (to help low-income seniors) and A Home For My Family, a housing program launched by ProCigar to help 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. All of the major premium cigar makers in the Dominican Republic are part of ProCigar.

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The cigar makers of ProCigar toast the organization’s 30th anniversary on the final night of the festival.

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