OC Fair promises good times for all

The OC Fair has, once again, set the Orange County Wine Society up for fun all summer long (apologies to The Beach Boys)! The fair runs Friday, July 14, through Sunday, Aug. 13, with Monday and Tuesday dark. This year’s theme, “Happy Together,” fits not only the fair but the whole atmosphere of The Courtyard.

The Courtyard at the OC Fair is our major fundraiser for the entire year. Not only does it provide operating revenue for OCWS, it is the face of our organization to the fairgoers (more than 1 million in 2022)! The fair is also the source of many new OCWS members each year. When some attendees see how much fun the OCWS is, they join on the spot.

The Courtyard runs on volunteers and is a rewarding and fun opportunity. Rich Skoczylas is again coordinating the volunteer sign-ups. Invitations for managers, stewards and cashiers will be sent via email in April. Server sign-ups will open up the OCWS website May 1. Volunteers must sign-up for a minimum of four shifts. If you have not previously worked as a cashier or a steward and have previous experience working in The Courtyard and would like to cashier or steward, contact Rich at We will consider your experience for these positions. Leslie Hodowanec is the set-up/tear-down crew chair and will announce the dates as the fair opening approaches.

This summer, the fair is requiring everyone who works at The Courtyard to complete the Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) requires for alcoholic beverage service. This is an online training class followed by a test. Teri Lane is the coordinator for training and more information will follow with links to the class and ABC. The certification is valid for three years and everyone who completed the class last year is still good to go.

At this writing, it looks like The Courtyard will have a summer run much like last year. We are planning on serving varietal wines by the glass, tastes of the award-winning wines and having the Express Bar. The fun and popular Featured Winery Program hosted by Liz and Lloyd Corbett (that earned more than $15,000 in scholarship donations) will be back. The ever popular, often- sold-out wine seminars also will return.

Don’t forget the added benefits of working shifts over the four-week run. Your credentials will give you access to the fair any day it is open (even sold-out days) and your parking pass also is valid. The big pluses are the wine tickets that equate to two glasses of varietal wine or eight tastes of award winners per shift worked. You can pour the two glasses into a Govino glass and head to a show. The lists the concert events at both The Hangar and the Pacific Amphitheatre.

If you haven’t volunteered for The Courtyard in a while, consider returning this summer for some of that summer fun. If you are new to The Courtyard, come on down. Fran Gitsham and I are co-chairing The Courtyard this year and we will see you at the Orange County Fair!
—Fred Heinecke,
OCWS Director

2022 Courtyard at the OC Fair

The 2022 OC Fair, now just a fading memory, is still fresh in the minds and hearts of the 212 OCWS volunteers whose dedication and enthusiasm brought success to this year’s Courtyard. With over 1,340 shifts worked and thousands of hours spent behind the scenes before and after the Fair, the Fair came and went like a breeze on the wind.

As a partner to the Orange County Fair & Events Center, we run both the Commercial and Home Wine Competitions. In return, we are given the opportunity to run The Courtyard, with income therefrom paying for both Competitions and covering OCWS’ overhead for the following year. The Featured Winery Program and donations from the general public raise funds that are contributed directly to our Scholarship Fund.

The success of The Courtyard is due, in no small part, to The Courtyard Committee, cash verifiers behind the scenes, seminar presenters, the set-up and tear-down crews, the Featured Winery Program, and too many other positions and programs to name and, needless to say, all the OCWS volunteers who manned or maintained The Courtyard in a number of capacities.

It takes every one of our volunteers, their time, their hands, and their hearts, to tackle the tasks, no matter how great or small, to make The Courtyard a success and provide the OCWS with a fabulous foundation going into next year. Thank you to each and every one of you who volunteered this year!

– Fran Gitsham and the entire Courtyard Committee

The Courtyard Crew– Set Up and Tear Down

This is How It’s Done: It took three days for our talented veteran volunteers to set up The Courtyard for the 2022 OC Fair. With things around us quickly changing every day, new features and with our special touches, we passed all our inspections to make The Courtyard a safe place to meet, greet and appreciate.

It is from our Courtyard teams and your generous service that promote our organization in many ways throughout the year. And importantly, the donations generated fund our scholarship account. New members could experience interesting tidbits few of us get to see, and there will be more opportunities to get involved for the OC Fair in 2023. Sorry we cannot keep The Courtyard looking so nice all year long!

The Tear Down Team will assemble in The Courtyard the day after the Fair ends to take it all down in one day, Monday, August 15 at 9 am until 3 pm. Contact Leslie Hodowanec at to sign up. Lunch will be provided.

If you’re smiling when you walk into The Courtyard, thank the Set Up Team!  We are one facet of many that it takes to pull off the OC Fair. We hope you enjoy some photos below of our dedicated OCWS team in action and THANK YOU CREW!

– Leslie Hodowanec, The Courtyard Set Up
and Tear Down Coordinator

The Courtyard at the OC Fair

We are so excited to be bringing lots of fun to the OCWS by way of The Courtyard at the OC Fair this year! Come join us in person to help support the organization and make our biggest, and much needed, fundraiser of the year a tremendous success.

The Courtyard will mirror last year with a bistro vibe. High-top bistro tables scattered around and, newly added, there will be benches along two of The Courtyard walls for seating. At this time, we are extremely excited to be bringing back in-person seminars and the Featured Winery Program, with its own location and a new bar. We are also planning to bring back Award Tastings, however, if County guidelines and Fair mandates change, we will adapt accordingly. The atmosphere that our volunteers bring to The Courtyard with their love, laughter and commitment remains the same.

To those of you who have signed up to volunteer at The Courtyard this Fair season, THANK YOU! We still have quite a few shift opportunities, so keep an eye out for our SOS (Save our Shifts) emails. By the time you read this, you should have received confirmation of your shift schedules and will receive your badges and parking passes via USPS prior to the opening of Fair.

The Fair has implemented a new program, which replaces the previous TIPS training. The new ABC RBS (Responsible Beverage Serving) will be required of managers, supervisors and volunteers who have never worked The Courtyard before. Anyone who has been TIPS trained, whether your certification is current or expired, will not be required to certify this year, however, the new certification will be required in 2023.

If you are interested in working at the Fair, or adding additional shifts to your requests, please reach out at email address

And remember, as an added bonus your badges double as entry passes to the Fair at any time, while all other public Fair passes can only be purchased ahead of time online.

We look forward to seeing you at The Courtyard!

– Fran Gitsham, 2022 Courtyard at the OC Fair Chair

President’s Message – Gearing Up for Fair Fun!

With the Commercial and Home Wine Competitions quickly almost having been and gone, the 2022 OC Fair is fast approaching, and the OCWS is geared up to run our most important fundraising effort of the year—The Courtyard at the OC Fair. This year’s Fair theme is “Feel the Sunshine,” and runs Wednesdays through Sundays, beginning on Friday, July 15 and concluding on Sunday, August 14.

The Fair is attended by over 1,000,000 people a year, so The Courtyard clearly provides us with a perfect venue for reaching lots of people. In exchange for running the OC Fair’s wine competitions, the Orange County Fair & Events Center affords us the opportunity to run The Courtyard and realize the income therefrom. In addition to the income received from The Courtyard funding the wine competitions, it also provides funds for our year-round overhead and, by way of donations, for our Scholarship Program. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to the organization that The Courtyard be a huge success!

It takes over 300 OCWS volunteers to man The Courtyard during the Fair. Whether you are a new volunteer or a seasoned veteran at The Courtyard, this is your opportunity to support the fundraising efforts of the Orange County Wine Society. In addition to hosting The Courtyard during the OC Fair, some of our most knowledgeable and experienced OCWS members will be conducting wine seminars on Saturdays and Sundays. Check out the seminar schedule on the OCWS website and come learn something new about wines, and wine and food pairings that you may not know you don’t already know. So, if you seek fun, don’t miss coming out and feeling the sunshine with wine fun at the Fair!

I look forward to seeing you there.

– Fran Gitsham, President

Earn OC Fair Drink Tickets Redeemable at The Courtyard this Year

Help us get new wineries registered for the 2022 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition!

On March 17, the Orange County Wine Society sent you an email entitled: “2022 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition – Help Us Get the word out …”

Here are the easy steps for you to take to earn extra drink tickets:

  1. Forward the email mentioned above to your favorite wineries that have not signed up for the Competition before; and
  2. Make sure to blind copy Liz Corbett ( on your emails so that we can give you credit when they sign up.

If your winery enters their wines in this year’s Competition (and they are new to our Competition), you will be rewarded with additional drink tickets during the OC Fair. Your efforts will also be recognized in the OCWS Wine Press newsletter.

Thank you for supporting the OCWS and getting the word out about the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition which is the largest competition of wines from California grown grapes.

Questions, contact Liz at the above email address.

– Liz Corbett,
2022 Commercial Wine Competition Administrator

2022 Courtyard at the OC Fair

Feel the Sunshine – July 15 through August 14

It will be time again to Feel the Sunshine at the 2022 OC Fair while helping the OCWS continue to rebound from these past few years of COVID by volunteering at our major fundraiser of the year, The Courtyard at the OC Fair.

Volunteer opportunities will be here before you know it! So, plan accordingly, as all willing hands and wonderful hearts will be needed and greatly appreciated.

  • Servers – Sign-ups open May 1 on the OCWS website
  • Managers, Stewards and Cashiers – Check your inbox (and spam folders) for invitations to sign up for these positions
  • Dates for set-up, decorating and tear-down will be announced soon

We are sure you are all wondering what this year will look like. Well, so are we!  At the writing of this article, we had been advised that we should plan on running The Courtyard the same as we did last year, which means we may only be serving wine by the glass again. However, the final determination is yet to be made by the Fair. Therefore, depending on COVID numbers and State and County guidelines as we get closer, we may, and are hopeful to, be able to have wine tastings and in-person seminars, but will not know this until a later date.

The Featured Winery Program will be returning! More details will follow as we get closer to Fair time and receive OCFEC confirmation of any parameters and restrictions at that time.

If you have any questions regarding volunteer sign-ups, please contact our Courtyard Scheduling Coordinator, Rich Skoczylas at, or reach out to me at

We look forward to seeing you at the Fair and continuing to get back to sharing fun, great laughs, and wine together in person!

– Fran Gitsham, Courtyard Committee Chair

The Courtyard at the OC Fair Returns in Style as Only the OCWS Can Do!

Just a few months ago no one knew what we would, if anything, be able to do at the Fair this year, and we had very little direction as to what COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines we would need to follow until just a few weeks before opening. Now that the 2021 Courtyard at the OC Fair is becoming a fleeting memory, thanks to the dedication and commitment of 213 members (which was 100 less volunteers at The Courtyard from previous years), and a lot of last-minute changes on the fly throughout the entire run of the Fair, The Courtyard was a resounding success!

Following a very scary and unsure financial year for the organization last year, The Courtyard bounced back in high fashion to almost equal our highest grossing year (2019) under very tenuous conditions. We had members working anywhere from as many as 33 shifts to as few as 4 shifts, and off-shift members pitching in, more often than not, when they were at the Fair to just have fun. You all know who you are, and you were terrific! We also had the behind-the-scenes Courtyard Committee members, cash verifiers, set up and tear down crews, and employees doing whatever was needed to keep the boat afloat. This year proved resoundingly that OCWS volunteers can accomplish anything they set their minds and hearts to.

Some amazing facts from this year included the sale of  28,116 glasses of Varietal Wines, 5,598 Champagne Splits, 3,951 glasses of House Wine, and 1,727 Thursday 3oz Tastes of Fair wines and, just into the beginning of the final week of the Fair, The Courtyard sold out of Govino cups after selling 3,040 Concert Specials and 499 empty Govino glasses.

Our scholarship fund realized $19,800 in donations at The Courtyard and OCWS signed up 97 new dual and single memberships, which equates to 156 new members! All which can be credited to the enthusiasm of our volunteers!

It took every one of our volunteers, no matter how large or small the task, to bring The Courtyard back at full steam and to now having provided the OCWS a great financial foundation going forward. You wore your hearts on your sleeves and worked your a**es off, and the Courtyard Committee could not be more grateful! Thank you to each and every one!

– Fran Gitsham, Courtyard Chair
and The 2021 Courtyard Committee