Samantha Chea's pot brownies won a first-place blue ribbon at the Denver County Fair in earlier off-site judging. Marijuana is not allowed on the fairgrounds, but there will be a 21-and-up Pot Pavilion. The Denver County Fair will run through this weekend on the National Western grounds. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post)

Blue-ribbon weed: Denver County Fair pot showcase kicks off

DENVER — Marijuana joined roses and dahlias Friday in blue ribbon events at the nation’s first county fair to allow pot competitions.

This weekend’s Denver County Fair includes a 21-and-over “Pot Pavilion” where winning entries for plants, bongs, edible treats and clothes made from hemp are on display.

There is no actual weed at the fairgrounds. Instead, fairgoers will see photos of the competing pot plants and marijuana-infused foods. A sign near the entry warns patrons not to consume pot at the fair.

A speed joint-rolling contest uses oregano, not pot. The only real stuff allowed at the event? Doritos, to be used in the munchie eating contest.

Organizers say the marijuana categories this year — which come with the debut of legal recreational marijuana in Colorado — 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.

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“We’ve been selling tickets to people from all over the world, and we keep hearing they want to come see the pot,” said Dana Cain, who helped organize Denver County’s first fair three years ago. This year’s event is expected to draw 20,000 people.

Judges considered only the quality of individual marijuana plants, not potency or the merits of drugs produced by the plants.

“It’s more like a rose competition than anything,” said Russel Wise, a pot grower who entered three plants and a marijuana-infused baklava treat.

Other Colorado contests — patterned after Amsterdam’s famed Cannabis Cup — gauge drug quality and flavor.

Edible products did require tasting. A secret panel of judges sampled brownies and other treats earlier this month at an undisclosed location.

“At first the judges were eating them all, but by the end they were really feeling it, so they just tasted them and spit them out,” Cain said with a laugh. “We offered them cabs home.”

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The winning brownie was made with walnuts and dark chocolate. Top prize was $20 and a blue ribbon. The fair already has a green ribbon — awarded for using environmentally conscious methods.

For the handmade bong contest, three industry insiders judged 17 entries for craftsmanship, creativity — and functionality.

“It has to be something special, something you’d want to use,” said judge Robert Folse, who works at a pot dispensary as a “budtender,” sort of a sommelier for marijuana.

It’s too soon to say whether marijuana contests will spread to other state fairs. Officials in Routt County, in western Colorado, voted last year to ban marijuana from the county fair. Colorado State Fair organizers have expressed no interest in marijuana competition.

California holds an Emerald Cup at the fairgrounds in Sonoma County, 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.


Kristen Wyatt can be reached at

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