Judgment Day: Big Fresno Fair Judge Goes On 42nd Year

"We come here every year to do our two days of civil duty," Paul Cook said about what he and his fellow judges do at the Big Fresno Fair. "We judge them by the color and the lack of defects and size, to get them uniform in size. And then we decide which one is the first, the second and the third."

Cook is no stranger to stone fruit.

"We do the peaches, plums and nectarines; sometimes the pears and maybe the citrus," he said.

He's been judging at the Big Fresno Fair ever since one of his instructors at Fresno State asked him to help out.

You could say that was a while ago.

"When he retired, I kept on coming back every year. And this is my 42nd year," Cook said.

And he's made a couple of buddies along the way.{}

"We're a team. Paul just happens to be the senior member of our team," Dennis Plann, who has judged with Paul for 30 years, said.

They judge everything from nectarines to peaches, even things you probably haven't seen before.

They either work or have worked for the Fresno County Department of Agriculture for decades.

And they've worked together at the fair for 20 years.

"When I first started, I learned from these two. And it was just great to have a lot of experience," Dana Taniguchi, who has judged with Paul and Dennis for 20 years, said.

"It's so interesting to see the new varieties as they develop, the varieties that come through here. And you get to know the people in the booths and it's like seeing old friends again," Plann said.

They're old friends with a job to do.

Cook says things have changed a bit throughout the years.

"The amount of fruit that's coming in and the sizes of the displays are smaller than they were back 25 or 30 years ago," Cook said.

But he says he still loves the job.

And along with working side by side with his friends, Cook says, getting to taste the fruits of their labor is great too.

"This morning we did take a pear and cut it up in slices and pass it around," Cook said.

It started out as a favor to his college instructor, but 42 years later, Paul Cook is still going.

And he has no plans to stop.

"As long as my wife will let me drive my car," he laughed.

Paul and his counterparts judge hundreds of entries of fruits and vegetables for the two days before the fair begins.

Those entries come from clubs and communities around Fresno County.

The winners take home cash rewards.