For as many years as she can remember, Carol Craig has ventured out to Sopris Park for the annual Mountain Fair festivities, but this was the first year that she decided to spend a little quality time in the Pie Judging tent.She admits that she’s always wanted to be a judge for the contest and the thought of tasting fresh cream-filled, fruit-packed, original pies just made her mouth water. But she told herself that it could never be. “I’ve often wondered how to become a judge, but someone told me you had to wait until someone died,” said Craig, who confessed that her favorite pie is rhubarb.The fact is, until just this year, those rumors Craig had heard were true. Even though she didn’t get to judge at this year’s contest, she may get the opportunity in the future.Since the late 1970s, the only way to grab a coveted seat in the pie judging contest was if someone involuntarily gave it up by passing away. But this year a group of young women decided new tongues should have the opportunity to delight in judging the tasty pies of some of the valley’s best bakers.Taking a year to learn from the more seasoned judges, Pam Zentmyer and the rest of the new generation of Mountain Fair pie judging organizers received the spatula passed down from their elders and served up dozens of delectable pie slices at this year’s contest.Like any good recipe, sometimes a little tinkering makes it even better.”Change is good,” Zentmyer said of the new contest organization. “It’s like pie … you like to eat it fresh.”The pinch of youth added to this year’s judging tables allowed 12-year-old Coral Froning to join her aunt and mother at the fruit-filled pie table.”My mom’s done it for so long, and I remember coming into the tent and she’d give me a little taste of her pies and I really liked it,” Froning said.Happy to have her daughter at her side, Froning’s mother, Linda Singer-Froning, a judge for almost 20 years, agreed that change is good.”It’s shaking things up a bit,” Singer-Froning said. “It used to be until you died you had a seat, so most people here judging are 50 and over, but we’re happy to pass the baton, or, I guess, the spatula,” Singer-Froning said.Admitting that she didn’t know what she got herself into when sister-in-law Zentmyer asked her to judge the contest this year, judging novice Danette Witzell expressed her one regret in judging this year’s contest.”I should have worn more loose pants,” Witzell said.After tasting “Even Mountains In Heaven,” a pie in the exotic category, Lee Ann Eustis, a more seasoned judge, said she knew exactly what to expect when she woke up Saturday morning.”It’s a lot of pies,” Eustis said. “Just when you think you’ve tasted the ultimate, you get to the eighth pie and you think, ‘My god, that’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted.'”Years of judging revealed no secrets to Eustis in preparing to taste almost a dozen pies.”Some people try not to eat for at least a week,” Eustis said of those preparing for each year’s contest. “Me, I just try to be my normal gorging self.”With much of the 34th Annual Mountain Fair staying the same, locals danced in the park, shopped at the vendor booths and ate the foods they waited patiently for until summer in the mountains arrived. But for a taste of something new, they needed only to stroll by the pie judging tent where generations mixed, bringing fresh taste buds to one of the valley’s oldest traditions.”I respect the amount of time and the longevity of the commitment some of these judges have,” Zentmyer said. “There will always be a place for them, as there should be a place for new people too,” Zentmyer said.
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