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Buzz Abounds Over Denver County Fair’s New Pot Pavilion

Image: Dana Cain

Dana Cain, director of the Denver County Fair, shows a poster advertising the fair on Monday. Colorado's Denver County is adding cannabis-themed events to its 2014 summer fair. Ed Andrieski / AP

Seattle and Denver may be fairly well-matched in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but the latter has already laid claim to a bowl title of another sort: This summer, the city’s National Western Complex will be home to the world’s first pot pavilion Aug. 1-3 during the Denver County Fair.

“We’re an urban county fair, and our demographics have always been a little different,” said Dana Cain, the fair’s director. “Being the first city in the world to legislate recreational marijuana is not an accomplishment we could ignore.”

The pavilion, which will be limited to visitors ages 21 and older, will feature pot-themed exhibitor booths showcasing bongs, recipes and paraphernalia. There will also be a laser light show, live music and Grateful Dead karaoke sessions. Twirling will, no doubt, be encouraged.

What there won’t be is actual marijuana. While recreational pot has been legally for sale in Colorado since Jan. 1, public consumption remains illegal, so the competitive events — best marijuana plant, best clone plant, best brownie and several others — will be judged off-site, with the winners displayed in the pavilion via photographs.

“Everybody and their dog wants to be a judge,” said Cain. “Some, like Ricardo Baca [The Denver Post’s new marijuana editor] are very qualified; some not at all.”

Other events will include a joint-rolling contest — using oregano instead of pot — and a Doritos-eating contest, which will likely appeal to those who may have pre-functioned before arrival at the fair.

The announcement of the pot pavilion has clearly put the festivities on the county-fair map with the news being reported as far away as Dublin, Ireland and Perth, Australia.

Not everybody, however, is thrilled with the prospect of giving pot the same stature as pies, quilts and baby goats, as evidenced by some of the comments, such as this one from Mary Glasmann Haack, on the fair’s Facebook page.

OMG - is this really what our state has turned into? "Fairs" are supposed to be family oriented and wholesome - if you guys are what Denver is looking for - more power to all of you. We will no longer be judges, participants or visitors.

“I never imagined that everybody was going to love the idea,” said Cain, “but this is not the first time we’ve dipped our toe in the pool of controversy.”

The fair, which is privately operated, has earned a reputation for offbeat offerings since it was founded in 2011.

“We have tarot readings in the holistic tent, and some people think that’s just completely satanic and demonic,” said Cain. “People say, ‘How can you have drag queens when there are kids around? That’s just wrong.’”

Hey, in Denver, that’s just how they roll.