The 2020 edition of the Cigar Heritage Festival, an annual event held in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, has been postponed until March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival celebrates Tampa’s cigar making heritage and is sponsored by Arturo Fuente and J.C. Newman Cigar Co., both of which have their headquarters in Tampa’s Ybor City. J.C. Newman also operates El Reloj, a fully operational cigar factory that produces a number of machine made cigars as well as The American, a premium cigar line that uses only American-grown tobaccos as well as American-made boxes and bands. The factory, along with the company’s offices, have been undergoing an extensive renovation and a new museum and factory store just recently reopened to the public.
The issue came down to permitting, as due to the pandemic the city has slowed its permitting process to two-week intervals that also take into account the city’s current infection rate and other factors, according to a spokesperson for the City of Tampa. Since the event had not yet been fully permitted, the feasibility of obtaining a permit became increasingly slim, forcing the change in date.
“I’m sure many of our guests are as disappointed as we are but, we had no choice but to move the date,” said Nate Morgan, of Cigar Heritage Festival, Inc. “We also felt people might feel more comfortable coming out in the spring once there is a better handle on this virus.”
The event is centered around celebrating Tampa’s long history of cigar making, which has earned it the nickname of “Cigar City.” It features a number of Tampa-based cigar makers, as well as live music, food trucks and approximately 150 vendors. There are also a number of events held throughout the weekend at local cigar shops as part of the festivities.
The festival is free to the public to attend, though there is an option for VIP tickets which provide access to catered food and drink as well as a selection of cigars and reserved seating. Morgan told halfwheel that ticket holders can either transfer their tickets to the new event date or request a full refund. He noted that so far, 96 percent of the ticket holders have opted to keep their tickets for the March event.
Morgan added that plans are in the works to get the event back on schedule with a December 2021 festival as well.
The event has been operating in its current format since 2015, when it was brought back by Cigar City Magazine.