Many people over the years have asked me the question, “What the hell is C.A.T.S. Fest?”—and then they want to know when it is. These are pretty good questions. First off, what does “C.A.T.S.” stand for? It is an acronym for “Cigar Aficionados Trades and Sales.” The C.A.T.S. community was the first real cigar social media community that did not support just one manufacturer or retailer. C.A.T.S. grew in popularity, and community herfs and other cigar-smoking gatherings grew across the country as well. The only charity that C.A.T.S officially supports is Operation: Cigars for Warriors, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that sends premium cigars, boutique coffee, magazines, cigar lighters and cutters, and other cigar-related items to troops serving overseas. More than 85 percent of the over 1,500 volunteers who have worked with Operation: Cigars for Warriors have come from C.A.T.S. So, as the community grew, it saw an opportunity to support our troops by having one huge celebration every year—C.A.T.S. Fest—to raise money for Operation: Cigars for Warriors.
C.A.T.S. Fest was designed to celebrate the variety of people who enjoy cigars, and it is an all-inclusive event that’s dedicated to garnering respect and loyalty for our troops. C.A.T.S. Fest has a spectacularly large female participation as well. Last year, 38 percent of C.A.T.S. Fest participants were women! LadyCATS is an active part of the larger society that gives women a voice in the industry, and they will be just one of many clubs who will be participating in this year’s C.A.T.S. Fest.
C.A.T.S. Fest is a three-day celebration that offers so many activities for premium cigar smokers—and just about anyone else—to enjoy, and it is Operation: Cigars for Warriorsʼ biggest fundraiser of the year. The premium cigar and craft beer festival is always held over Memorial Day weekend. This year it will be held in Granbury, Texas, a city right outside of Fort Worth, from May 21-24. Granbury is absolutely beautiful, and it is easily one of the most patriotic cities I have ever seen.
The festival changes each year to keep it fresh while maintaining the most popular activities. Some of the best features are the amazingly low ticket prices as well as the amazing number of free cigars and the amount of swag attendees get. Cigar lovers enjoy a tremendous weekend spent supporting American military personnel and celebrating their love of premium cigars, craft beers and so much more. This year, we will have our soft launch event on Thursday evening, May 21, before pre-registration starts at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 22, when many of the attendees will gather their free cigars and swag. That evening, those with a VIP ticket may attend the Shanghai Nights (denim and lace) dinner. This is always a popular C.A.T.S. Fest event as guests get neat gifts, get to rub elbows with many industry personalities, and meet some politicians and celebrities. At the dinner’s conclusion, all ticket holders gather at the host hotel for C.A.T.S. Fest’s legendary pre-party.
The fun never stops on the Saturday and Sunday of C.A.T.S. Fest. All of the attending manufacturers offer significant discounts on their cigars, ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent off. Guests get to sample some of the best craft beer available for free. There is an insane raffle every year, with all proceeds supporting Operation: Cigars for Warriors. We have some of the most unforgettable and moving military ceremonies that most civilians never get a chance to see, and then there’s another great party back at the host hotel, which includes the famous Cigar Olympics, hosted by Asylum Cigars, and our first home brew competition. Everyone who buys a ticket to C.A.T.S. Fest gets a free membership to the C.A.T.S. Home Brew Society, which allows them to sample all the home brews at no cost and then vote for their favorite beer.
C.A.T.S. Fest ends with a fun but more relaxed atmosphere on Sunday, May 24, with a pizza and craft beer event at the host hotel and our second annual scramble golf tournament for groups of four, which will be held at one of Granbury’s beautiful and elite golf courses. C.A.T.S. Fest is a very fun event that strengthens the cigar community and forms friendships between people who might never have met before—if you don’t know everyone by the time you leave C.A.T.S. Fest, you hid in your car! The best part of the festival is the huge impact it has in supporting Operation: Cigars for Warriors and our deployed troops. Without C.A.T.S. Fest, Operation: Cigars for Warriors’ mission would be very difficult to accomplish. For more information or to buy your ticket, visit catsfestival.com. We hope to see each of you there!
This story first appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.
– Contributed by Storm Boen, Chairman, Operation: Cigars for Warriors