(Photo by John Cook) Vassar Memorial Park – formerly the Vassar Fairgrounds – was the site of the Vassar Cork Pine Fair and harness-horse races, along with amusement rides, in decades past. The park still hosts mud bogs, softball games and baseball games. Vassar City Council members have asked City Manager Andrew Niedzinski to explore whether the site could host The High Times Cannabis Cup, an event previously held near Clio.

City leaders here may have a burning desire to host the Cannabis Cup – a marijuana festival with product competition and live music – at the town’s fairgrounds.

The event, one of a number of regional High Times Cannabis Cup contests traditionally held across the country, has occurred for a number of years near Clio.

But the Vassar City Council on Monday night directed City Manager Andrew Niedzinski to investigate whether Vassar Memorial Park – formerly the Vassar Fairgrounds – could host the event next year.

“It’s like the World Expo of Beer (held annually in Frankenmuth) – that’s basically what it is,” said Megan Hathaway, one of four council members wanting Niedzinski to research the idea.

No Michigan location has been specified to host a Cannabis Cup event this year, according to www.cannabiscup.com. The contest is recruiting members of the public as judges in the wake of restrictions imposed due to COVID-19, with “kits” of competing marijuana products dropped at various retailers.

In past years, though, judges at each regional High Times Cannabis Cup would pick three winners in each of 15 categories, including the “Best Indica Flower” and “Best Sativa Flower,” in reference to two strains of marijuana.

Other categories include “Best Pre-Roll” and “Best Vape Pen” and “Best CBD Edible.” Contests have occurred in metropolitan areas including Detroit, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco.

The winner in each category “receives the coveted Cannabis Cup trophy,” according to www.cannabiscup.com.

“Receiving the Cup has propelled brands into the stratosphere, and taken strains from the unknown into household names,” the website states.

While the Cannabis Cup occurred for several years at Auto City Speedway near Clio, a new state rule requires any cannabis-related event to be approved by the local municipality or city that hosts the event.

Vienna Township in Genesee County, where the event was taking place, doesn’t allow sales of medical or recreational marijuana.

Vassar and adjacent Vassar Township, however, have welcomed marijuana-related businesses, with several of them operating in both communities.

The High Times Cannabis Cup website bills the Cup as “a touring festival-type celebration that brings hundreds of cannabis brands in to provide attendees a deep dive into the magical world of marijuana, as well as performances from world-class musical talent like the Wu Tang Clan or Nas.”

Niedzinski said he was approached by representatives of a Vassar marijuana store, The Station Provisioning Center, about relocating the Cannabis Cup from the Clio area to Vassar.

Niedzinski said the event “all seems legit and above board.”

“Can we research and reach out to Clio to find out what type of challenges it posed to their community?” Mayor Mike Damm asked Niedzinski.

Niedzinski said he would do so, but first wanted to ensure council members are interested in entertaining the possibility of hosting the Cannabis Cup.

“I can look into it and make those calls to those communities and see how they liked it,” Niedzinski said.

Niedzinski said the racetrack near Clio “is more set up for this type of event, and not so much our fairgrounds, but our fairgrounds is very underutilized.”

Decades ago, the fairgrounds – at the end of Walnut Street leading off Cass Avenue – was home to the Vassar Cork Pine Fair, and has hosted mud bogs in recent years.

Tourism promoters have estimated the one-day Cannabis Cup near Clio reaped several hundred thousand dollars of revenue for Birch Run-area hotels.

Hathaway said she once worked at the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth.

“We would have a lot of guests who wanted to go to the Clio Cannabis Cup, and they would come and stay – and they spent a lot of money in the hotel, and they were always respectful, and we didn’t have any problems with them,” Hathaway said.

“I’m not advocating one way or the other; I’m just saying that they do have money to spend and they do spend it.”

Council member Pat Mecham said she isn’t opposed to having Niedzinski look into the idea. Council member Melissa Armstrong said she isn’t opposed to such an event, while Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Fabbro – one of five council members – was absent from Monday’s meeting.

“In Vassar at this point, we don’t have much else to offer people who are coming in,” Mecham said. “We don’t have the (Bavarian Inn) Lodge and we don’t have a lot of restaurants, but at this point people could go (stay in) Frankenmuth.”

Hathaway said such a festival would be a good way to bring in business to food trucks selling concessions at the event.

“The few restaurants that we do have downtown would probably do some good business,” Hathaway said.

Hathaway added “it probably wouldn’t hurt to contact the Clio Police Department to see if they had any problems, and maybe even the Frankenmuth Police Department when they had guests who were staying in Frankenmuth from those activities.”

Niedzinski said “if we allow (organizers) to do an event like this, I’m certainly going to try to see if they’ll sponsor some security equipment for us, such as camera systems for the park.”

The security cameras used by two marijuana-provisioning centers in Vassar “are just the top of the line, and if we could get some of those for the city, that would be very nice,” Niedzinski said.

Damm asked Niedzinski to ask about how many people attend The High Times Cannabis Cup, and what security issues police had at the Clio-area event.

“Before we make any kind of a decision, we should have facts,” Damm said.

City officials, if they choose, could grant a waiver to allow smoking at Vassar Memorial Park should the city host the Cannabis Cup there.

“It’s (marijuana) consumption allowed, and that’s really the challenge,” Damm said.

Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com.