A HudsonValley Pipe Club Holiday Extravaganza
December 2004

By Horace Harker

What started out four years ago as a simple pipe smoking contest of the Hudson Valley Pipe Club has turned into an impressive gala event. Held for the past two years at S.M. Frank & Co. in Peekskill, NY, home of Kaywoodie, Yellow Bole and Medico pipes, this event was not only a holiday celebration but a mini pipe show, pipe smoking contest, and fund raiser all rolled into one.

Sharing in the festivities were members of the Hudson Valley Pipe Club, the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club of Boston, the Pocono Intermountain Pipe Enclave of PA., and the New York Pipe Club. The total in attendance this year was thirty six, fourteen more than last year. Included in the group were six local pipe makers, Bill Feurbach from S.M. Frank, who hosted the event and supplied everyone with pipes for the pipe smoking contest; Paul Bonaquisti, who brought with him a handful of his first ever Christmas pipes; Rolando Negoitia, winner of this year's P&T Pipe carving contest; Darius Christian of GRC Pipes, who has taken a hiatus from pipe making since the birth of his daughter; and Joe Skoda and Tim Hynick from the Hudson Valley and Sherlock Holmes pipe clubs respectively, both of whom had entries in this year's P&T pipe carving contest. Between the pipes brought by these pipe makers and the numerous estate pipes made available by Mel Feldman, Fine Olde Briars and others, it was very difficult to go home without first buying yourself a well deserved early holiday gift.

After our 4 hour drive from Boston, it was nice to finally relax with friends and enjoy some of the vintage tobacco that was available. One of the big hits was an old can of Balkan Sobranie that I heard was somewhere around 35 years old. The taste was extremely mellow and delicious. After a bowl or two, Bill gave us a tour of the factory and explained to us the many different stages his pipes go through before making their way to your local tobacconist or drug store. After the tour was finished, an abundant spread of Italian food was laid out and devoured by everyone present. Everthing tasted so good that many of us went back for a second helping.

Once our bellies were sufficiently filled and our after dinner pipes alight, Rob Denholtz, the Hudson Valley Club's Dictator, brought us to attention for a raffle. The raffle item was a pipe carved by Hal Silverstein who passed away last November. Hal was an HVPC member, Navy vet, and the carver of Martin pipes, which are occasionally seen on Ebay. When he died he left behind his new wife and newborn child, and the HVPC has raised over $2000 for them since his passing. Hal's wife said the money helped her keep her house during a very difficult time. Today's raffle brought in around $165, and the winner of the Martin pipe was Dock Perry of SHPC.

Following the raffle was the day's main event, the fourth annual Hudson Valley Pipe Smoking Contest. Prizes for the contest included a number of pipes, tobacco, and accessories that were donated by GL Pease, McLelland Tobacco, HJ Bailey (importers of the donated GBD), RD Field, The Smoker, Fine Olde Briars, and SM Frank. There were tons of prizes and everyone went home a winner.

Once we were all given our Kaywoodie pipes and tamper, our ration of G.L. Pease's Renaissance tobacco, and our two matches, the rules were explained and we were off and running. I've heard nightmares about some of the pipes and tobaccos used in pipe smoking contests, but today's blend wasn't bad and the pipes smoked pretty well. But then again, I only lasted 17 minutes.

Among the contestants was first time pipe smoker April DiFiglio, wife of HVPC member Tom DiFiglio. She did very well, finishing with a respectable time of 16 minutes, 58 seconds. In protest for being disqualified from last years contest, Paul Bonaquisti, with the support of Tony Perella, and Jay Beard, decided to have a contest of their own. This contest was conducted by smoking a cigar, inserted into the bowl of their pipes to see which one of them would have the "biggest ash". Clearly any one of them could have won that contest.

So after an hour had passed there were only two smokers left, Steve Gutz from SHCP and Dave Bull from PIPE. But alas, Dave's pipe went out and our own Steve Gutz was the victor. The winning time was 1 hour 2 minutes and 20 seconds. I guess you can't own over 3000 pipes without have a little experience smoking them. Nice job Steve. Rob Garabino, last year's winner from HVPC, presented the trophy to Steve, which he will keep until next year.

I'd like to thank Bill Feurbach, the Hudson Valley Pipe Club and all those who helped sponsor this event. It's events like this that add to the enjoyment of collecting and smoking pipes while fostering friendships and helping others in need. Unfortunately, smoking bans across the country have put clubs like ours on the endangered species list by making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to hold our meetings and events in a venue that is easily accessible to those who would attend them. Remember folks, there is strength in numbers, so please do your part. Join a club, start a club, or be a voice for fairness and freedom in your state, city or community.

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