This has been a big year for a small cigar shop in Fort Worth, The Underground Cigar Shop. The shop just celebrated it’s 1st anniversary in October of 2014, then in November launched it’s first shop exclusive, the Catacomb from Black Label Trading Company, now a cigar festival? The Underground is quickly making a big mark on the cigar industry, the boutique industry in particular. The Underground is owned and run by Don Wiggins, a boutique cigar enthusiast who also runs a Facebook group dedicated to all things boutique cigar and not giving a single care to what the mainstream cigar world is doing. So what do you do after so much success in your first year? You buy a larger building for a new shop and throw your first annual UGFest.
Being a boutique cigar nerd myself and seeing how I consider the UG my home shop I immediately purchased a ticket to the festival the first day they went on sale. The event promised cigars, several boutique manufacturers, free food, and free beer, all for $125, there was no way this could turn out bad! Before the event I was sent a â€œGolden Ticketâ€ for entry as well as an invitation to a pre-fest herf the night before. Don and his wife Laura also hosted a dinner Thursday night for any UG members and manufacturers that had come into town early for the event. These guys went as far as even getting a special rate and rooms blocked at the nearest hotel and a limo service to provide sober rides to and from the hotel.
I attended the pre-fest herf the night before and had a great time chatting with fellow cigar enthusiasts and meeting many people that I have had much interaction with via the UG group. Food for the event was provided by the Underground and DJ services were handled by Skip Martin of RoMa Craft. There was even a bit of a dance routine done by Ryan Johnson of Dissident Cigars, don’t ask. Needless to say this was a great time just hanging out and smoking cigars, no serious business, just fun.
I arrived at the festival just a little after noon, when the UGFest kicked off, showed my ticket and was handed an event bag full of goodies. I was promptly greeted by several social media acquaintances and Cigar Nut readers. I am always impressed by the genuine friendship that the cigar world brings. The festival was held at the new Underground shop which is located just about a block from the original. The interior of the building itself is still being remodeled but the property is essentially a large parking lot, perfect for a large scale event. There was a large tent set up where all the vendors were located, it was a bit rainy earlier in the day so it was perfect. The tent was packed full of people smoking and making the rounds to each vendor to see what deals were to be had and get some one-on-one interaction with the people behind the cigars. The owners and reps that were in attendance were very accommodating, took time with each person, and really engaged the crowd. Boxes were being offered at large discounts and most companies were throwing in some extras as well. There was plenty of swag available from each vendor, including shirts and stickers. The event was very busy for the vendors, something you love to see!
The vendors present, and some of their special offers, are as follows; Ohana Cigars, One13 Cigars, RoMa Craft, who held a side raffle for all who purchased a box from them which included a Femur, La Palina Cigars, who offered an ashtray and cigar pack with every purchase, Nomad, who had some serious giveaways, Maya Selva, who contributed a cigar mold with cigars for the raffle, Ezra Zion, who contributed a bottle of Ezra Zion wine for the raffle, Black Label Trading Company, who entered a cap, box of cigarsn and cutter in to the raffle, Cabal Cigars, 262 Cigars, who gave some swag for the raffle, Dante, also a raffle contributor, Dissident, Regius Cigars, Cubanacan, who was offering a massive amount of cigars with box purchases including two HR cigars valued at over $20 each. TL Johnson Cigars was present and donated a custom Terry Johnson fishing rod valued at $900, Hermosa Cigars, who donated a fedora, Chinnock Cellars Cigars, Crowned Heads, Lone Star Beard Company, Cigars For Warriors, Disabled American Veterans, and Cigar Rights of America. The raffle tickets were available for purchase and 100% of the money raised went directly to Disabled American Veterans. DAV also auctioned off a beautiful American flag humidor that was signed by the last surviving Iwa Jima fighter. The grab bags that were handed out at entry to the event featured note pads, pens, temporary tattoos (for the kiddos at home), and about $180 worth of cigars from the vendors that were present.
Another big highlight of the UGFest was the Cigars For Warriors donation drive. The goal of the day was simply to break the current single event donation record of 1,370 cigars. The Underground rose to the challenge and donated over 3,600 cigars to CFW at the event! I spoke with the CFW representative for the event, Ann Zischkau, and she had this to say:
â€œI have done events before for CFW but this was the first one I had done on my own. This event definitely spoiled me. Don and Ltrain (Larry Fernandez) did everything they could to get the word out that we needed to break that record, and it was over the top. People at the event would buy boxes from the vendors and then immediately walk over and drop them into my donation box. It was amazing. Patriotism is definitely not dead at the UG and there were a lot of donations made by people who had been formerly deployed and even by a few who were about to be deployed.â€
When it came to event entertainment UGFest was second to none. During the vendor portion of the event there was a DJ (not Skip Martin thankfully) and live music after. The event featured a large outdoor area that had a wrestling ring set up with seating around it. Before the event there were a few challenges issued, one was between Red Ryan of Dissident and cigar social media legend Pizza Mike Pfeifer. Another challenge was between UG member and professional MMA fighter Chris â€œLionheartâ€ Jones and Cubanacan’s Brandon â€œThe Great White Tobacconistâ€ Holzworth. For the first match Ryan and Mike pretty much ran their mouth while professional wrestlers took care of business in a tag team match. In the end Pizza Mike pinned Ryan for the win. The latter match was pretty much as one sided of a beating as you would presume, Lionheart applied a choke hold and Holzworth tapped out. The highlight match was the first of the evening in which a young up and coming star named AJ took on a professional about twice his size and came out victorious. AJ is about 8 years old but entered that ring like championship fighter. All matches were officiated by a Jonathan Drew look a like with ring announcing by Michael Huff of Dante Cigars and ring side commentary by â€œSnugglesâ€ and â€œPepper,â€ also known as Nomad’s Fred Rewey and Clint Aaron of 262 Cigars.
A few days after the UGFest I was able to sit down with Don Wiggins and talk about the fest. Wiggins told The Cigar Nut that there were 175 tickets sold world wide, the deals and offers from the event were extended to ticket holder who knew they could not attend, grab bags were also sent out to every person who purchased a ticket. Attendance to the event was approximately 160 ticket holders and the total number of boxes purchased was 126. Wiggins stated:
â€œI would like to give a special thanks to all those who made this possible, each vendor, retailer, and manufacturer who showed up and supported the Underground in our first festival. I would also like to thank Mark Scott, Larry Fernandez, Laura Wiggins, Mario Barcelona and each and every person who helped in the planning and production of this massive undertaking. I would also like to give a very special thanks to Cigars International for giving me so much motivation to make sure this UGFest was the best it could possibly be.â€
I look forward to next years UGFest, although they have created some big expectations I have no doubt that the event will be another success. I want to also extend a thanks to the Underground for supporting The Cigar Nut by allowing us to cover this great event, and to Suzie Weldon of Q Designs Creative group, as well as Gerardo Vasquez for allowing us the use of the awesome professional photos, we will see you next year!