Denver dives into county-fair weed contests; Washington bides time

c.r.roberts@thenewstribune.comJanuary 28, 2014 

Dana Cain, director of the Denver County Fair, shows a poster advertising the fair’s marijuana theme at a Denver printshop on Monday.

ED ANDRIESKI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Denver will. Washington waits.

Come summer, visitors at the Denver County Fair will have a chance to celebrate legal recreational marijuana at events, including a Grateful Dead Karaoke competition, a joint-rolling contest and a Best Homemade Bong battle.

In Washington, where the recreational use of marijuana is likewise legal, visitors to the State Fair and country fairs will likely not find such diversions.

At the Denver County Fair: Best Brownie Recipe, Best Homemade Roach Clip, Best Tie-Dye, Best Clone Plant and a Dorito Eating Contest.

At fairs in Washington: nothing of the sort.

“At this point in time I have not been made aware of any fairs that are going to do that,” said Rich Hartzell, president of the Washington State Fairs Association, on Monday.

“A department like that could spring up,” he said. “They obviously need some time for preparation. It has not been (discussed) to this point, and I guess we’re probably looking for a little more clarity from the laws that are out there. I would say at this point it is a little premature to really try to instigate that in any kind of a fair program.”

“You guys should do one, too,” said Dana Cain, director and co-founder of the Denver County Fair, on Monday.

She explained that the fair’s “Pot Pavilion” will deny entry to anyone under 21, and that no actual marijuana will be present on-site.

Judging for plants, brownies and other recipes will be held away from the fairgrounds. Photographs of winners will be posted at the site.

“We have a long line of people wanting to judge,” Cain said.

She emphasized that the privately owned fair will be respectful of those who may not share an enthusiasm for the product. “Retail marijuana stores can hand out information, but they can’t sell pot at the fair,” she said.

Known for its quirky nature, the Denver fair also hosts a Green Pavilion, a Geek Pavilion, a tattoo competition and “Chicken Bingo,” while the Crafts Pavilion welcomes entries to an annual “Peeps Diorama” competition featuring little yellow marshmallow birds placed into entertaining circumstances.

Representatives of the Thurston County and Pierce County fairs were not available for comment on Monday.

Tony Tipton, director of Pierce County Parks and Recreation, said that his office — which administers Frontier Park, where the Pierce County Fair is held — “has not gotten any request for a similar activity. I couldn’t tell you if we would approve that or not.”

He cited a “less than legal framework” surrounding the issue of legalized recreational marijuana. The substance remains illegal under federal law.

“It’s very complicated for me to give an answer,” Tipton said.

Karen LaFlamme, spokeswoman for the Washington State Fair, agrees. “We’re letting all that work out until we address the issue.”

Although the Denver fair will embraces cannabis display and competition, the Colorado State Fair has yet to decide whether to recognize the substance for its commercial or agricultural status.

“We are examining our options,” said Chris Wiseman, general manager of the annual gathering in Pueblo. “I would never say never. It certainly is a growing industry in Colorado. If we could find the proper way to showcase it – I am interested in looking at that. It certainly is on our list.”

Meanwhile, Tracy Weil, marketing and creative director and co-founder of the Denver fair, is willing to take the opportunity that marijuana provides.

“We’re trying to respond to the market and what’s exciting,” he said.

“Worst-case scenario, they shut us down,” said Dana Cain. “Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.”

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535 c.r.roberts@thenewstribune.com

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