The Nebraska Cigar Festival
Just a few short miles west of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska sits a historic area landmark, the Pla Mor Ballroom. For the past 13 years, cigar enthusiasts brave the cold weather and mediocre road conditions to spend a few hours with family and friends, all while sampling a good variety of cigars. The annual event was organized by the Nebraska Cigar Society, which was officially formed in 2015. James and I were in Lincoln a day early to acclimate our bodies, enjoy some local cuisine, meet some new friends, and, of course, enjoy the Nebraska Cigar Festival.
The Pla More Ballroom, now 90 years old, opened its doors on December 23rd, 1929. There was a point in Lincoln’s history where they had over six ballrooms. Those days are long past, and the Pla Mor is the only one that has withstood the test of time, and still thrives in the community today. Not only do they host events like the Nebraska Cigar Festival but they do offer several attractions throughout the year. Plenty of events to keep the kind folks of the community entertained.
Like many states across the country, the state of Nebraska has passed a “Clean-air” or “Smoke Free” act. However, the state does allow exemptions for cigar lounges and cigar bars. In addition to these exemptions, Nebraska’s smoking laws have a clause that allows events, such as the Nebraska Cigar Festival and venues such as the Pla Mor Ballroom, to request and obtain a temporary exemption. The exemption allows patrons of the event to smoke their cigars indoors, between a specified set of times where it would normally not be permitted by law.
The Nebraska Cigar Festival has three tiers for festival goers: General Admission, VIP, and VIP tables. Each tier includes a set amount of cigars, swag, special seating, and other perks. This was my fourth year attending this event, and ticket prices have only increased once during that time. Please visit the Nebraska Cigar Festival website for more information on tickets.
This event is a little different compared to other events I have attended because half of the cigars that the attendee receives are handed out by cigar representatives, while the other half are given out by local cigar lounges. Among the lounges in attendance were Capital Cigar Lounge and Cigarz Lounge. Each year, the cigar companies in attendance change a little bit. This year, Crowned Heads, Rocky Patel, Epic Cigars, Cattle Baron Cigars, and Alec Bradley all had representatives at the festival. La Palina, Leaf by Oscar, Crux, Nat Cicco, General Cigar, and Esteban Carreras were represented by the local lounges. There was another cigar company on the vendor list. Including them, each general admission ticket holder would have received a total of eleven cigars this year; however, Tarazona cigars was a no show, completely ghosting the event.
The event is organized in a “trick-or-treat” sort of way. The tables with the vendors, reps, and lounges are set-up in a large oval across the main floor of the of the venue. You are given a card in which you present to each of the tables, they mark you off and hand you a cigar. It takes no longer than 15 or 20 minutes to complete your round and collect your goodies. There are two bars, one on either end of the venue, where you can choose from a decent selection of cocktails. The beer selection is pretty limited.
The Pla Mor Ballroom has plenty of seating, but if you want a good seat you should claim it early or you’ll be pushed back into one of the darker corners of the venue. The festival also provides a cigar rolling demonstration, live music, a buffet (this year it was BBQ and it was delicious), and a ton of prizes that are raffled off throughout the night. The raffles end with a grand prize of a years worth of cigars, making it worth sticking around to enjoy the company of other brothers and sisters of the leaf.
Following the festival is an after party held at one of the local cigar lounges. This year it was held in the heart of downtown Lincoln at Cigarz Lounge. The secondary party location was at Capital Cigar Lounge, located on the south side of town. Both of these lounges are “can’t miss” spots when you are in or around Lincoln, Nebraska.
Certainly, the Nebraska Cigar Festival is not biggest or best cigar event that I have ever attended, but I can say that I do appreciate it, and that appreciation grows each year. It’s nice to have something more than a single manufacturer event in a local shop within commuting distance. Because of the Nebraska Cigar Festival I have met representatives and owners from War Fighter Tobacco, La Palina, Micallef, and most recently Epic Cigars. They each took the time to introduce me to their products. I can also say that the Nebraska locals have been some of the best and most welcoming people I have come across in my adventures of the leaf. These are both great reasons to attend the event.
During the event, you do have the option to purchase additional cigars and cigar accessories. This is a great opportunity to take that hidden gem home with you. If you don’t see something at the event that you are looking for, take an extra minute to check with the lounge owners/vendors in attendance and see if they have that product in stock for you to pick up after the event.
A good thing to keep in mind is that brick and mortar cigar shops are the unsung heroes that provide for the cigar community on a day-to-day basis. Events like the Nebraska Cigar Society could not exist or be successful without them. Who knows? You may even find the cocktail you didn’t realize you were missing during your visit to that local shop.