The Courtyard Tear-Down Dream Team

It was worth scrubbing, lifting, sweeping, stringing, hanging, moving around, setting up and tearing down to prepare for our largest OCWS scholarship-generating event at the OC Fair! The Setup and Teardown Crew was composed of 73 volunteers over 4 1/2 days for a total of 438 volunteer hours.

Thank you so much to our team for volunteering trucks and transportation, climbing up the ladders, crawling underneath spaces and setting up lunches and for all your extra talents. Now, The Courtyard has little wall space left to use. There are always minor glitches and it’s an obstacle course driving across the fairground to the containers the morning after. Plus, your ideas this year increased efficiency and The Courtyard Crew is already taking notes for setting up for the 2024 OC Fair.

Leslie Hodowanec, 2023 Courtyard Coordinator

OC Fair Roundup – Happy Serving Together At 2023 OC Fair

It seems like the five weeks at the Orange County Fair flew by.  Leslie Hodowanec waived her magic wand and the set-up crew started right after July 4th. By Friday July 14, it looked like Cinderella’s carriage.

The wine started to flow at The Courtyard opening and the volunteers kept pouring until the clock struck 10 p.m. on Aug. 13. By the next day, The Courtyard was returned to the loveable pumpkin.

The final accounting is not yet completed, but the summer of 2023 came to be another very successful year by any measure. One metric that takes the forefront is new memberships.

Patrons see OCWS members having a great time at The Courtyard and want to get in on the fun. The new member bell rang 144 times during the fair for 108 dual and 36 single memberships for a total of 252 new Orange County Wine Society members!

The Courtyard is our largest fundraiser of the year and cannot be successful without volunteers. This summer 235 members volunteered and worked a total of 1,440 shifts. Together they filled over 30,000 8-ounce cups!

Liz and Lloyd Corbett worked each Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Featured Winery Bar and added over $16,000 to the Scholarship Fund. The donation jars brought in an additional $17,000. This should be celebrated with Sparkling Splits, of which we sold 3,645.

Bill Redding and Kevin Coy kept the cellar full. We sold 1,906 of Cuvee Coy house wines. Sara Yeoman and Ed Reyes headed up the very popular Saturday and Sunday wine seminars.

Thank you to each member who volunteered during the run of the Happy Together year at the fair. Giving new meaning to, “will work for wine,” members used 3,654 wine tickets!

I want to give a special note to Courtney, who worked 32 shifts; Kevin Lite, who worked 28; Kelly Haggard, who worked 20; and Kevin Coy, who worked 20.

I want to express my gratitude to Co-Chair Fran Gitsham. Fran brings an extraordinary amount of institutional knowledge and worked tirelessly to coordinate with the fair and keep all the pieces in place from the planning through the operation of The Courtyard.

See you at The Courtyard next summer!

—Fred Heinecke, OCWS Director

15 Wineries Showcase Their Wines at Fair

More than a dozen wineries will spend a few hours every weekend at the upcoming fair to showcase their handiwork.

From Sacramento to right here in our backyard in Orange County and everywhere in between, The Courtyard’s Featured Winery program gives fairgoers and OCWS members the opportunity to taste some of the best wines California has to offer on top of all the other choices available.

For the past six years, nearly 100 wineries across California have been invited to the fair and pour their wine. OCWS members Lloyd and Liz Corbett have spearheaded the effort in hopes of getting wineries – especially some of the smaller ones – more exposure.

The program runs from 3 to 7 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the fair and kicks off Friday, July 14 with Orange County’s own Vinos Unidos.

Another Courtyard Setup in the Books

Cheers to our crew and the entire Courtyard Committee!

The first morning of the OC Fair we passed our inspections for the 2023 Courtyard. Taking three and a half days to set up, our amazing crew hope you enjoy our new signs, decorations and ideas.

We are already making plans for the 2024 Courtyard at the OC Fair and sincerely appreciate your ideas.

Now, we will be tearing it all down and everything will be stored away until next year.  Last year, we completed teardown in less than one day and we can use your help this year.  The teardown crew will meet 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14, in The Courtyard. If you are available, please sign up with me so I can plan for our lunch. Fell free to shoot me an email at

Further details will be provided soon.

—Leslie Hodowanec, Courtyard Teardown Coordinator

Behind the Counter

When the waft of funnel cakes hits your nose, the music lineups are all set and you see the giant Ferris wheel off the 55 Freeway, you know it’s time for the OC Fair.

An integral part of the fair is The Courtyard, where attendees get an experience they can’t quite find anywhere else – sampling an array of wines from across California all in one place.

Eighteen devoted OCWS members sit on a committee that gets The Courtyard’s wheels in motion months in advance of the fair.

“It takes an immense amount of planning, from the training to lining up volunteers to work the fair,” said Fred Heinecke, OCWS Director and Courtyard Chair. “Once it’s here, it’s like coming home and I enjoy getting to see all the excitement among the members.”

There are about 250 volunteers needed to work more than 1,200 shifts over 23 days, Wednesday through Sunday. Whether it’s being a server, cashier, steward or manager, each position is critical to The Courtyard’s success. The busiest times are usually on the weekend and depends on who is performing at the Pacific Amphitheatre and The Hangar.

Besides getting a fleet of volunteers to work behind the counter, one of the other biggest undertakings is having enough wine for the entire fair run. About 60 cases of wine and 40 cases of champagne splits are purchased every week to meet the demand, said Cellarmaster Bill Redding.

But for all that hard work during a three- or four-hour shift, volunteers are aptly rewarded. They receive a badge that allows free entry and parking during the fair and those highly valued drink tickets that get them a full pour, split or tasting of award-winning wines. That doesn’t even include the possibility of attending a wine-oriented seminar or brushing elbows with winemakers as part of the Featured Winery program every weekend.

If this is your first time volunteering at the fair or it’s been some time since you have, here are wise words from a few of our veterans:

Cashiers – Don’t leave your register unattended and if you have to step away; make sure a manager or assistant manager can fill in for you. Be accurate with your handling of money and encourage patience. And maybe best of all, you get to sit during your shift.

“Cashiers are the ringmasters of the courtyard,” said Cheryl Knapp. “They are the ones who keep the wine bar running smoothly by keeping track of which servers are next to be rung up, training servers how to relay sales to the cashier and to know when to call a manager.”

Servers – Make sure customers have wristbands. Look at what is available to pour before your shift starts. When all else fails, ask a manager.

“This is the main opportunity to share what OCWS is and how we’re different from other concessions at the fair,” said Marcy Ott. “Have a great attitude and a willingness to learn.”

Stewards – Make sure each station is stocked with wine and replace award-winning wines with the same varietal. The wine fridge also needs to be filled so volunteers don’t run out during a rush. Communication is key between servers and stewards to ensure that things run efficiently.

“My best advice is work with an experienced steward; that way they can help you when you need it,” said steward extraordinaire Kevin Lite. “Ask questions and enjoy yourself. Remember, we are a society and working together is fun.”

Managers – Ensure full staff is there for your shift. Check with the outgoing manager to see what duties still need to be done. Pass out those drink tickets to volunteers or you may have a mutiny on your hands.

“I enjoy the opening morning shift as it gives me time to discuss with volunteers any changes or updates in The Courtyard,” said Maia Pehrson. “The benefit of the weekend shift is you get an opportunity to talk to the volunteers and get to know them.”


It’s time to charge up and bring your power drills and step stools!  Over three days—July 5, 6 and 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., we will be transforming The Courtyard into a favorite location at the OC Fair.

The Courtyard is a place our dedicated members are very fond of all year long for so many years and for so many reasons. Our work keeps The Courtyard ready for upcoming OCWS events after the fair ends.

You can be a part of our amazing setup crew and don’t need to be a server or RBS certified to help. Plus, we will be providing snacks and lunch every day.

If you are available on any or all three days, contact me so I can plan for lunches and parking, or if you have any questions at Thank you, crew!

Leslie Hodowanec, Courtyard Setup/Tear Down Coordinator and Scholarship Chair

Courtyard Transformed Into Tropical Paradise

Twice a year, the OCWS holds events for the membership of the Orange County Wine Society. This year, the spring event was held April 30 at The Courtyard on the OC Fairgrounds. The theme was “Jimmy Buffett Party”. Despite being a long way from Margaritaville, the 150+ members and guests came out to enjoy the beautiful afternoon, tremendous music and outstanding food.

The Cook’s Caucus prepared a sumptuous selection of delicious Cheeseburgers from Paradise, Parrot Legs, grilled pineapple, mango salsa, plantain chips, Caribbean-style beans and rice, quesadillas and Frito green salad. As if those island fares left any room for dessert, a delectable key lime sheet pie rounded out the platefuls. Aye, there was plenty to go around as many of the motley crew found themselves returning for additional helpings of the mouthwatering spread.

The Three 2 Sevens filled the afternoon with great music and lots of dance tunes and the dance floor was packed all afternoon. Despite refraining from donning coconut bras or grass skirts, the band serenaded their audience with Jimmy Buffett songs to keep with the theme of the party.

The wine servers were busy pouring California wines from the cellar. A margarita machine was rented to make strawberry Roseritas. The frozen concoctions were so delicious none of the 100 that were made had a chance of wasting away again in Margaritaville. Speaking of which, has anyone seen my lost shaker of salt?

As each guest entered The Courtyard, they were given a ticket for a chance to win a door prize. Three lucky people won a bottle of wine plus either a wine carrier or tropical “It’s 5:00 o’clock Somewhere” shirt.

Over $1,800 was raised for scholarships through the Wine Wall, run by Rochelle Randel, and via a silent auction and wine-related items donated by members Lynda Edwards, Jay and Betty Jo Newell, Richard Ward, Linda Flemins, Fran Gitsham, Glenn and Alice Polser and

items purchased by OCWS. The bidding was fierce but friendly and all lucky winners were delighted with their prizes.

The Courtyard was transformed into a tropical paradise worthy of Buffett himself. Some people claim there is a woman to blame but under the tremendous work of Betty Jo Newell, the individual table settings and centerpieces, hanging decorations and palm tree coolers for water and beer captured the perfect equatorial atmosphere. Additionally, many of the guests wore their brightest tropical shirts or parrots to fit the oceanic ambience.

Thank you to all the volunteers and attendees for making this party so much fun. As Jimmy Buffett says, “Life is a journey not measured in miles or years, but in experiences.” The afternoon spent with Jimmy as our inspiration was a truly enjoyable experience!

Alice Polser – Event Chair

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