Wisps of marijuana smoke lingered in the air, backlit by orange, red and yellow lights that decorated the cavernous indoor main stage at the Emerald Cup, where awards were handed out Sunday afternoon to fan favorites and top scorers.
Hundreds of people filled the rows of seats at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Escaping the rain, they quietly but eagerly awaited to hear the winners.
In the licensed sun-grown category, meaning marijuana grown outdoors, Tar Hill of Mendocino County and Rebel Grown of Humboldt were runners-up to Humboldt’s Ridgeline Farms, which nabbed first place for its Green Lantern strain.
In the topical category, Newell’s Botanical won first place for its deep-skin, penetrating roll-on topical oil. Co-founder Chelsea Dudgeon, a Santa Rosa High School graduate, was in tears after being awarded the top prize.
“I do not know how we even survived this last year as a small family business. But now we are here as winners, and it is beyond humbling,” Dudgeon said while composing herself for photos.
Dudgeon, along with partner Newell Taylor, started the business in 2016. Together they create natural and organic skin, body and hair products infused with different levels of THC.
The words ‘love’ and ‘community’ were repeated dozens of times throughout the awards ceremony, as attendees cheered and cried alongside the winners.
Country music legend Willie Nelson also was honored at the event for his longtime cannabis activism. Nelson, who founded a recreational cannabis company named Willie’s Reserve, thanked attendees and growers for “their continued commitment for the sacred plant.”
During the social justice portion of the event, where Emerald Cup founder and organizer Tim Blake asked everyone to take a moment of silence, he told a story of the importance of showing gratitude for the cannabis plant.
He also mentioned the growing movement to support all those jailed on cannabis-related convictions.
“Find someone who is suffering in prison for their passion and commitment to cannabis and write them a letter,” Blake said. “We will eventually need to help them transition back into the world.”
Local regenerative cannabis and organic food farms from Mendocino County also were acknowledged for their focus on sustainable farming methods and for their work in building community.
Patricia Vargas of Sun Roots Farms said being recognized for their multifaceted business model of farming and community is overwhelming but inspiring. Vargas feels that the responsibility of their farm is to set an example and raise the bar for all those looking to work with the land, not against it, she said.
“I am moved by Mother Earth herself to do this work and was taught by my family to farm,” said Vargas, 30.
Blaire and Daniel Auclair of Radicle Herbs said they both were called to work on a farm from early on in their lives. Today they love being part of a community to share that passion with, Blaire said.
“I fell in love with the land when I first started toiling in it and getting my hands dirty,” Blaire said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
The 2018 Emerald Cup’s top three winners by category are listed below, with the company name, followed by the product name.