In case you missed the social media explosion of posts this weekend, it was La Zona Palooza weekend in Miami!
What is La Zona Palooza you ask?
It is a celebration of the love of Espinosa Cigars and brands that are made at the La Zona cigar factory. La Zona is owned by Mr. Erik Espinosa and starting last year he decided that it was important to him and his fellow brand owners to give back to his extended family of cigars lovers across the country.
This was the second year for the event and it is by invitation only. Getting the golden ticket is a reward to the those that post pictures and tags of Espinosa cigars and La Zona brands including, Cornelius and Anthony, Moya Ruiz, Protocol (Cubariqueño), Pier 28, and Crux.
Post and keep posting all year and you too may be recognized with an invite to the event next year. As Erik told me in this short interview
“I have to dance to with the people who took me to the dance”
The event itself is held at the Espinosa Cigars headquarters in Hialeah, Florida and it lasts three days. There is awesome and ample quantities of food, beverage, and of course cigars, throughout the weekend. Lovers of the brands come from all over the country and we sit around telling stories, eating, drinking, and smoking while getting to meet the faces behind the posts making new friend and rekindling old ones. Think of it as going to your local shop but not leaving till it is time to go to sleep. Each starts around 10AM and slides into the early morning hours. The only difference is, when you leave to go back to your hotel, there is no tab to pay. Of course you have to listen to the Alpha Dawg (Erik) tell his stories and boy does he have some fun ones.
Everybody receives a jam-packed goodie bag at the start of the event filled with swag and cigars from all the brand owners, enough cigar to last the three days, but strangely you never really burn thorough that bag, because all through the weekend, more cigars are being handed out to keep your palate enticed. It rains cigars at La Zona Palooza. I think I smoke more cigars at this event than I did in 3 days at the IPCPR.
Although I was not invited to the first La Zona Palooza I was honored to have been invited to this years event. Each year, Erik tries to make it fun and different form the year before. This year highlighted the Khoffner Brewery based in Fort Lauderdale, FL., a Live Broadcast from Kiss My Ash Radio, a talk by former CIA operative, Felix Rodriguez, the last man to see Che Guevara alive, and closing party at the Hialeah Gardens Park.
The Khoffner Brewery
The Khoffner Brewery, is owned and operated by Rauf Khoffner, a third generation brewer who followed in his grandfather, Karl Hoffner’s footsteps. Karl left Germany in 1933 to brew German-styled beers in Turkey. That tradition continues today in the Fort Lauderdale brewery. Erik met Rauf a couple of years ago and the bond was immediately born. Khoffner decided to brew a special beer to pair with the acclaimed Espinosa Laranja cigar.
No secret that beer is called the Khoffner Laranja and with its orange flavor it is truly a perfect pairing for that cigar. Khoffner also brews what is believed to be the first tobacco infused beer, that uses tobacco leaf, including ligero, that is placed in the barrel as the beer matures. Clocking in at 8.2% ABV this is a fine and unique brew and was a big hit at the event.
Kiss My Ash Radio
KMA Talk Radio (Kiss my Ash) is the creation of Honest Abe Dababneh who also owns the Smoke Inn chain of cigar lounges. A fervent supporter of Espinosa Cigars they held their weekly Saturday morning show, live from the Espinosa Headquarters. I like to tune in to KMA on Saturday mornings but being there lives was a nice treat. Smoke Inn also runs the annual Great Smoke event every year in south Florida and it is certainly one of the best events in the state.
Felix Rodriguez – A True Hero
We were graced to have a very special guest speaker, Mr. Felix Rodriguez. This man was the last person to see Che Guevara alive and the story he told was nothing short of spectacular. As the story goes, the CIA recruited Rodríguez in 1967 to train and head a team to hunt down Marxist guerrilla fighter Che Guevara, who was attempting to overthrow the US-backed government in Bolivia. Eventually the capture the guerrilla and went through a long interrogation that ended with a the killing of him by the Bolivian government. Felix continued to serve the United States in Vietnam – being shot down 5 times. You can watch his talk below. A real life American Hero he has also written a book Shadow Warrior – The CIA Hero of a Hundred Unknown Battles which you can order from Amazon here.
Children in Action
Now all great cigar companies have a way to give back to the community and Erik Espinosa and Espinosa Cigars is no exception. Erik commissioned an artist to create a number of humidors representing the various La Zona brands and supporters. Each of these were auctioned off with some going for close to $200.00. All the proceeds were donated to his charity Children in Action.
The Children In Action foundation (NCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of helping needy children locally and abroad. They accomplish this mission by using empowerment strategies that are effective and long-lasting, providing local families with children with holiday dinners at Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, and also with visits from Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
You can offer your support if you desire by contacting Children in Action 786-554-9090
Haircuts for All
One of the hidden treats at the event was the in-house Espinosa Cigars barber who was giving hair cuts and hot shaves all through the event. Now I have had haircuts and even a hot shave before, but this was extra special because you could sit there and smoke your cigar while getting groomed! Those that never had a hot shave exited with nothing but Wow, that was amazing.
The Rest of La Zona Palooza 2017
The days blended into nights and dreary eyed mornings to start the process over again. Here are a couple of slide shows of the event that highlights the fun and family love from La Zona Palooza 2017 – I hope you enjoy.
So there you have it, 3 days of food, drink, cigars and brother and sister hood of the leaf fun. Remember, if you want to be part of this next year get out there and post post post, photos of Espinosa Cigars and La Zona brands and maybe I will see you at La Zona Palooza 2018! I would like to thank Erik Espinosa, the Espinosa Family, and all the LA Zona brands for an outstanding and stress relief weekend.