A good day for Carol Craven
CARBONDALE – There were hugs, smiles, laughter, hoots, howls and toasts. But there were no tears.For Carol Craven, Saturday was a good day, filled with memories and reflection. Surrounded by family and friends, Carol took her seat in the pie-judging tent. Yes, her seat.”This was lovely,” Craven said, smiling after the annual pie contest was over. “It was very comfortable, really delightful.”This could have been a very difficult day for Carol. The Mountain Fair was always special to her and her husband, Peter.”I don’t think we ever missed one. I don’t know if that’s a sign of how dull we were or not,” she said with a laugh.On June 20 Peter died of a heart attack while riding his bicycle in Aspen. As a longtime district judge, then chief judge for the 9th Judicial District, Peter Craven touched countless lives. But it was the Mountain Fair when people saw his personality rise to the top.”He loved being a pie judge,” Carol said. “He had such a wonderful sense of humor. This really was his outlet.”As Carol, 63, relaxed in the shade of the tent, her work as a pie judge finished, she looked tired, and maybe a little relieved that the emotional day was over. She admits that the emotions of losing Peter come and go in waves. And there are tears. She also says that there are times when she still can’t believe he’s gone.”It’s so hard some times.”But that’s when the huge support group of friends and family come to the rescue.”I really don’t know what I would do without all of them. They really carry me along.”With her trusty white Stetson in hand – the one Peter bought her for Christmas several years and which she wears at every Mountain Fair – Carol relished her time as pie judge as she savored every slice and scrutinized every bite.Pie judging at Mountain Fair is serious business.There was a toast to Peter at the beginning, and there were T-shirts with a picture of Peter in a pie-judging costume.The day may have been about Peter, but it was really for Carol.Being a pie judge was the last thing Carol was planning when she stopped by in the morning.”I just planned to stop by, hear the toast, laugh and cry and go home.”But the empty seat had always belonged to Carol. She couldn’t turn it down.That’s the interesting part of the Craven pie-judging seat. It never belonged to Peter; however, since 1987, it was always Peter who took the spot.Carol laughs when she recalls the story.”I’d been whining about wanting to be a pie judge for years. I finally got a call, but I had to go to a family reunion, so I asked if Peter could do it for me.”Then the next year came along and Peter got the call.”He said, ‘They called me to pie judge,’ and I said, ‘Now Peter, you know that seat really belongs to me.'”Carol then became the photographer for the Valley Journal newspaper, and that meant her pie-judging days were put on hold.Saturday was the second time in 19 years Carol has sat in “her seat.” One year, Peter had to attend a wedding, and she filled in. Saturday, the hugs kept coming long after the best pie was picked. It’s what Carol calls the “Carbondale embrace.”It’s also what Carol says is so special about Carbondale and Mountain Fair.Only 39 days removed from the horrible day when Peter died, Carol says there is so much she misses about her husband.”(I miss) his curiosity. He was so inquisitive and knew so many things. He really was a walking, talking encyclopedia. And that sense of humor – he had such a great sense of humor.”Carol says she loved “the howl” on Saturday.” Three spontaneous werewolf-like howls from the pie judges were another ingredient in the recipe to remember Peter Craven the pie judge. “The pie wasn’t bad either,” she said with a smile, adding her favorites were an avocado, and a chocolate and peanut butter crème.Saturday wasn’t about sadness. It was about remembering a special man, and embracing a special woman who is still coping with loss.It was a special day when the pie tasted good, laughter rang down and stories and memories of Peter Craven were passed around along with pies.The death of Peter Craven has left a void, but on Saturday, there was a little comfort knowing there was still a pie-judging Craven.This year it was Carol, and it was a very good day.Dale Shrull is managing editor of the Post Independent.
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