Bakersfield resident Sam Allen makes a mean pound cake.

His wife, Marsha, bakes more cookies than you can shake a spatula at.

And most every year at the Kern County Fair, this husband and wife win gold with their sweet recipes.

"It's kind of a buddy thing," Sam said of the mixing, tweaking, baking and competing they do in their annual quest for blue ribbons and cash prizes at the fair's cooking and baking contests.

"It's a good thing to do together," he said. "Couples having marital troubles should bake a cake together." (Dr. Phil, are you getting this?)

If you'd like to enter a cake, a craft, a quilt, or your homemade peach preserves in one of the fair's dozens of contests, you'd better get crackin'.

Entries are now being accepted for most exhibit categories, from art and photography to baked goods and doll collections. Most entries have an August deadline so it's time to test your Spam stroganoff recipe on your in-laws, or dust off that Venus de Milo you sculpted entirely from LEGOs. (Yes, Virginia, there is a LEGO category.)

This year's 81st Kern County Fair will include a new plein air competition that will have professional artists painting scenes on location after the fair opens Sept. 20.

"I think it'll be fun to see what they can do in a few hours," said Nannette Lynch, the entry supervisor for still exhibits. "To watch them create something right in front of you."

One local kindergarten teacher has his young students create a scarecrow each year to enter into the fair's scarecrow competition, Lynch said. And quilt maker extraordinaire Donna Stauffer is almost sure to have some of her creations in the quilt and sewing exhibits.

For Marsha Allen, the fair competitions were always a time for her and her mom to team up on projects and recipes.

Her mother died last year, but the memories of that kitchen camaraderie will always be with her, Marsha Allen said.

"It was just fun to do together," she said. "It's such a wonderful fair -- just good, wholesome, clean fun. I've made so many good friends there."

And those cash prizes are nothing to sneeze at either. She rarely takes home less than $400 in prize money, Allen said. One year, she won some $2,000.

Said Allen: "I usually earn my Christmas money from my entries."

The 81st Kern County Fair runs Sept. 20 through Oct. 1

Still exhibit registration deadlines:

• Aug. 18 — Foods, baked and preserved

• Aug. 22 — Art , photography

• Aug. 23 — Hobby: crafts and collectibles, models, decorative art

• Aug. 24 — Agriculture/horticulture and scarecrows; bee and honey; ceramics; community feature exhibits; dolls; needle arts; minerals, fossils, lapidary and beads; miniature structures and furnishing

• Aug. 30 — Author’s Corner; 4-H dog show; 4 -H and junior organizations; FFA ag mechanics; FHA home economics; leather/woodcraft; woodcarving; wool fleece

The entire exhibit catalog is available online. For more information, entry rules and closing dates, go to or call the fair’s entry office at 833-4900.