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Casey Christie

Helen Maas spends lots of time taking care of the camellias in her backyard.

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Two light-pink Easter Morn camellias grow beautifully in Helen Maas' back yard.

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Close up of camellia petals in the backyard of Helen Maas, a longtime member of the Camellia Society of Kern County.

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Bakersfield resident Helen Maas, a longtime member of the Camellia Society of Kern County, shows off some of her favorite flowers.

Kern County participants in the annual camellia show are one group of Bakersfield residents who love the city's weather. It gives them a real edge in the competition that attracts participants from throughout the state, said Marvin Belcher, vice president of the Camellia Society of Kern County.

The 65th annual Camellia Show will take place March 2 and 3 at the Bakersfield Racquet Club, 1660 Pine St. It's a chance for the public to proudly display their blooming camellias they have cultivated with their own hands, and compete to win awards.

People travel from Fresno, Los Angeles or San Diego to participate in this competition, Belcher said.

The judging is based on certain criteria including color, size, condition and quality of camellias. The best blooms in each category are selected to go to a final judging, where the judges choose and vote individually for the top four. The top three in each category are winners and they are placed on the head table, and awarded a crystal trophy.

The camellia season blooms in winter, when most other flowers do not. February and March will have the heaviest set of blooms for most camellia varieties, but generally their season is from November to May. One type of camellia is called the "Tinkerbell," and most children like to participate in the growing process of this particular flower because of the name alone.

The Camellia Society of Kern County was established in 1948. Anyone who loves and cares for the camellia plant can become a member of the society.

Millie Wheeler was inspired to join the society recently after she attended last year's camellia show. Now she has eight camellia plants in her garden.

"They are wonderful people, and we share a common interest, that is the camellia plant, the queen of the winter garden," Wheeler said.

Helen Maas, the president of the society and camellia show chairwoman, has been part of the society for 25 years, and is the fourth woman to become president. The society hosts five meetings each year to provide knowledge to members and the public on how to care for their flowers, and how they can achieve the healthiest, fullest blooms for the season. Meetings are open to non-members.

"(This is a place) where you will enjoy friendship, and improve your knowledge of how to grow that prize-winning camellia," Belcher said. "Warning: You may get hooked! I did 42 years ago."

Participants may enter their camellias for the annual show from 8 to 10 a.m. March 2, and judging begins at 10:30 a.m. The public can view the displays from 1 to 4 p.m. on March 2, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 3. Raffles and prizes will be featured.