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Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

A sample of some of the cakes judged at the Albertson's Cake Mix Tricks Contest at the Kern County Fair in 2011.

The clock is ticking, but there is still time to enter the dozens of contests presented by the Kern County Fair.

Friday is the first deadline for a number of categories, including author's corner, fine art and photography, whose due dates were bumped a week due to computer issues.

Overall, fair entry department supervisor Patt Sandrini wants to make sure people know that competition is alive and well at the fair.

"We didn't mail out any (contest) books this year. It was a cost-cutting measure. But we have them in the public libraries and businesses in town. We hope that people understand that even though they didn't get a book that the fair is still going on."

All the popular contests are back, from dolls and woodcarving to ceramics and horticulture, along with notable additions to the baked goods category. Also new are three live cooking competitions.

"The kitchen was donated to us by Urner's, so we have live contests: pancake, gourmet grilled cheese and decorated cupcake for juniors."

Because of the need for cooking space in the kitchen setup, the pancake and gourmet grilled cheese competitions will be limited to the first six entrants, who must be at least 18 years old.

The cupcake decorating will feature two classes -- 7 to 9 years and 10 to 12 -- that will not be as limited since entrants only need room to adorn cakes.

The three contests are set for the first week of the fair to draw attention to the new setup. And if Sandrini has her way, there will be a big presentation to kick off the fair on Sept. 18.

"This year we're hoping to get a few local chefs to do some demonstrations. We're going to make the phone calls and see what happens. One of those that we're looking on for celebrity chef for the opening day of the fair."

Sandrini also has grand plans for the kitchen next year.

"We intend to expand on it. It came about kind of quickly. We have to make some modifications (to the kitchen). Demonstrations this year; next year we'd like something like the (Food Network's) 'Chopped' competition."

There are a few new contests as well for home chefs seeking fair glory. Fresh salsa will be judged in junior and adult classes, while it's adults only for the home brew contest, which is divided into wine and craft beers. And appealing to those with dietary concerns, the gluten-free dessert contest is also new this year.

The Tex-Mex casserole contest is unique for its judging criteria, which includes 20 percent for "family appeal."

Of the judging, Sandrini advised: "Kids aren't really gourmet. And if you're feeding a family, I wouldn't put corn in something. I wouldn't disguise vegetables."

No matter the contest, Sandrini has some words of wisdom.

"Be on time with their recipe and food and make it attractive. We do have people that will be habitually late. We need them to be on time for their contest.

"Have fun and bring lots of samples to the entry office. We're hungry."