THE RTDA SHOW . . . FOR CONSUMERS?Plus: C.A.O. Italia . . . goes Italian!

Los Angeles, August 22 – Every year when we get ready for the annual Retail Tobacco Dealers of America (RTDA) convention and trade show, there are inquiries from our friends: “Get me a badge.”

It’s not their interest in the issues facing retail tobacconists, or the cigar industry in general. It’s the samples of cigars, a gluttony of handmade brands which they can collect and enjoy over the next year.

Maybe their time has come.

J-R Cigar’s “Cigar Mania” may be the closest thing to the RTDA show that any consumer will ever be able to attend.

For $75, which is less than the dues that retail tobacconists pay for their annual RTDA membership that allows them to attend the annual conference, CigarMania attendees will receive an entry gift of at least 45 cigars from most of the premium makers on the U.S. market and have the chance to speak with dozens of those manufacturers, face to face, on the floor of the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.

The event, which will be held on September 28 from 6-10 p.m. is expected to attract from 5-6,000 attendees, which will likely make it the largest consumer cigar event ever, and will be on a par – on attendance – with the RTDA show itself.

It’s hardly a wild gamble for J-R, which has long experience with mounting large consumer cigar shows for hundreds or even more than 1,000 attendees, at the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum in New York or at the Meadowlands Race Track. But this is their biggest undertaking to date, at 60,000 square feet of what they are calling “Cigar Nirvana.”

And beyond the lure of cigars and the opportunity to beat manufacturers out of more cigars through begging, crying, pouting and simply putting a hand out, the event offers a variety of attractions and educational opportunities that make it very much like any major trade show:

• Photo opportunities with some Playboy Playmates or the “Swisher Sweeties” – just like at almost every trade show you can name;

• The astonishing “Zippo Car,” a vintage Chrysler with a giant Zippo lighter attached over the cab!

• Professional pool player Jennifer Barretta, who will demonstrate techniques and tricks of the billiards trade;

• An exhibit of Triumph motorcycles and the opportunity to win a Triumph Bonneville at the show;

• A silent auction of celebrity and sports memorabilia;

• Cigar rollers from the Tabacalera Perdomo and from Toraño Cigars;

• Special seminars on cigars and related topics from high-profile folks in the cigar trade.

The food isn’t free, but the J-R folks aren’t taking any chances, having set up a tasting and reviewing the prices to be sure the offerings are of quality and of fair value.

Perhaps most important is that a portion of the proceeds will go to the World of Montecristo Relief Organization, which supports capital and educational programs in the principal countries where U.S.-marketed cigars are made, including the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua.

It should be quite an event and we’ll be there to cover it, orchids and thorns. If you’ve wanted to attend the RTDA show but are not part of the retail trade, this could be as close as you’ll get. And, yes, if successful, it will be an annual event each autumn.

CAO Italia takes a drive to Monterey Bay:
It’s only days since the RTDA show wrapped up in New Orleans, but C.A.O. was back on the promotion trail this past weekend as a sponsor of the Concorso Italiano in Monterey Bay, California. The Concorso, in its 20th year, is primarily a gathering of Italian-made automobiles such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and so on, with ancillary events in fashion, golf, opera and, of course, dining.

Naturally, the C.A.O. Italia line was showcased, but one has to wonder . . . do the newest Italian cars still have ashtrays?

Cigars and Poker get together online:
Thanks to its wide exposure on television, the popularity of poker continues to expand. We’ve already reported on the “Poker Smoker” organized by Caribe Imported Cigars and Smoke magazine, which will soon begin its fall schedule.

Now there’s a new site, which offers Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha games among players online, so that you can play while smoking cigars to your heart’s content . . . at home.

Why this is different from number of other sites which create such games among online players is beyond me, but it’s another extension of the Doyle Brunson Poker Network organized in the Netherlands Antilles.

The announcement notes that there are plans for sponsored tournaments involving cigar companies. Does that mean winners will get cigars instead of money? Just asking . . .
~ Rich Perelman

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