DENVER - Pot at the county fair? Why not?
Colorado's Denver County is adding cannabis-themed contests to its 2014 summer fair. It's the first time pot plants will stand alongside tomato plants and homemade jam in competition for a blue ribbon.
There won't actually be any marijuana at the fairgrounds. The judging will be done off-site, with photos showing the winning entries. And a live joint-rolling contest will be done with oregano, not pot.
But county fair organizers say the marijuana categories will add a fun twist on Denver's already-quirky county fair, which includes a drag queen pageant and a contest for dioramas made with Peeps candies.
"We thought it was time for us to take that leap and represent one of the things Denver has going on," said Tracy Weil, the fair's marketing and creative director.
The nine marijuana categories include live plants and clones, plus contests for marijuana-infused brownies and savory foods. Homemade bongs, homemade roach clips and clothing and fabric made with hemp round out the categories.
Judges will look only at plant quality, not the potency or quality of the drugs they produce. Other contests - patterned after Amsterdam's famed Cannabis Cup - already gauge drug quality and flavor.
Top prize is $20, plus of course a blue ribbon. The fair already has a green ribbon - awarded for using environmentally conscious methods.
The entries will be shown in a "Pot Pavilion" open only to people over 21. Alongside the pot entrants will be 24 categories of homemade beer, four categories for homemade wine and one category for "spirits and liqueurs."
Prizes will also be given for speedy joint-rolling, though fair organizers insist there won't be any marijuana consumption on-site. Competitors in the live Doritos-eating contest will have to acquire their munchies elsewhere.
Even the photographs of the winning plants will be viewable only by adults 21. Organizers don't want 4-H competitors in the popular rabbit and goat contests wandering by a pot display.
"We have a lot of families and kids at the fair, of course, and we wanted to be respectful of that," Weil said.
Denver's fair is far from traditional, though. Denver County didn't have a county fair until 2011. Organizers wanted an urban, hip element alongside traditional fair favorites like a Ferris wheel and cotton candy.
There's a speed text-messaging contest, and the highlight staple of a Western fair, a rodeo, has been replaced with a bicycle rodeo and a troupe of performing pigs. About 20,000 people attended last year.
The marijuana contests aren't likely to spread to other fairs in Colorado. Officials in Routt County, in western Colorado, voted last year to expressly ban marijuana from its county fair.
And Colorado State Fair organizers have expressed no interest in marijuana competition.
California holds an Emerald Cup at the fairgrounds in Sonoma County, Calif., where guests with medical clearance are able to sample the drug. That contest is held at the fairgrounds but isn't a part of the county fair.