Fair-minded mother, daughter

Two take home their share of blue-ribbon prizes from contests held in Timonium

August 31, 2005|By Nichole Wright | Nichole Wright,SUN STAFF

While many families spend the final summer month before school starts taking last-minute vacations to the beach and running down back-to-school sales, Carolyn Kulp, 52, and daughter Felicia, 15, of Ellicott City spend their time differently.

"People say, `What do you do in August?' " said Carolyn Kulp. "We say the county fair and the state fair."

This year, they spent a good part of three days mixing, baking and shaping candy that they entered in the Maryland State Fair in Timonium, which started Friday. They received three blue ribbons, a second-place and a third for their efforts.

"We did pretty good," Kulp said.

Kulp's hobby as a fair participant began when she was 9 and entered a sewing competition in the Howard County Fair. "From there, I gradually moved into candy."

Felicia began participating at age 5, entering a photo that she snapped at the Baltimore Zoo. She won grand champion. This year, the Marriotts Ridge High School sophomore entered 19 food categories at the state fair, including fudge, mints, sugar cookies, spritz cookies, brownies and a Swedish tea ring. She also entered crafts, fine-arts and photography competitions.

Her mother, an administrative assistant for the Howard County branch of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service and a certified medical transcriptionist, entered candy and needlework.

The Kulps had to compete against about 300 other entries in the candy categories, state fair officials said. But, Carolyn Kulp said, the chances of winning a blue ribbon were better with candy than with baked goods.

"Most entries are in baking, cakes and cookies," said Kulp, who also has judged food entries for 4-H in the past. "My entries in those categories didn't do too well, so I decided to try something different."

This year, the Kulps entered caramel, fudge, white-chocolate fudge with almonds, fondants and mints. Felicia won first place for her mints, while her mother won third. But Mom won first for fondant, while her daughter won second.

"I was pleased her mints won," Kulp said. Although her daughter could compete in the children's category, she chooses to compete as an adult. "She understands that she will be judged just like the rest of us," Kulp said.

The Kulps say they look for recipes that are different and interesting.

"If I know that I've had bad luck with one, I try to find something totally different the next time I enter," Kulp said.

Because judging is based on the overall appearance, taste and presentation of only six samples, having a near-perfect product is important. "You learn how to make fudge right over the years," said Kulp. "It's basically when it looks right and how it feels when you're stirring it. You learn from your mistakes."

This year, Felicia won first place for her white-chocolate fudge, although ribbons eluded them in the chocolate-fudge category.

As for their mints, the Kulps mix together confectioners' sugar, butter, milk and oil of peppermint and place portions into small bowls. Then they add food coloring, a couple of drops at a time, and mix well. Then small pieces of the mint are pinched off and rolled in sugar before being placed into candy molds.

This year, Felicia tried using double colors for the first time, rolling together two different colors, allowing her to create pink and blue roses. "I like to throw the judges off with my coloring," she said.

The judges must have liked what they saw. Her mints won a blue ribbon.

The Kulps spent about eight hours over a three-day period making candy last week.

"Some years I've been known to be up until 2 or 3 a.m. the night before, doing this," Kulp said.

And sometimes, even the best recipes can be foiled by unforeseen circumstances. One year it was so hot, all the chocolate melted off Kulp's chocolate-covered cherries. "It was a beautiful cherry in a cup of melted chocolate," she said with a laugh.

The prize money for a winning candy entry is small - $8 for first place - but the Kulps say they participate in the fair "just for fun."

Last Friday, Carolyn Kulp hardly had time to recount her success in candy-making. She was rushing out the door with pies for the fair's pie contest.

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