Category Archives: Competitions

  • Thursday, June 16, 2022 (5:30 pm)

    Learn all about OC Fair’s Commercial Wine Competition

    The OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition is the largest California-only wine competition and is in its 46th year. Only the best winemakers and winery principles were invited to be a part of the 17 panels of up to five judges who blindly tasted 2,516 wines June 4-5.

    Fran Gitsham, the president of Orange County Wine Society and host of the event, was in charge of this massive production powered by 300 volunteers. “The flow” is how Gitsham referred to the system of how the wines were judged.

    First, the bar-coded wines were poured in sequence by stewards, who delivered them carefully to each table. Once a judging table completed their tasting, they waved a green “pick up glasses” sign, signaling the stewards to retrieve the glasses and walk them to a side room to be cleaned for the next wines. At the same time, their judging forms were picked up and taken to the data validation and entry room. The data was then verified using computerized lists, and by the end of the day they had complete reports of the day’s judging. This was repeated until all wines had been judged.

    Results for the 2022 Commercial Wine Competition are now available at Plus, the wines will be available to purchase by the glass at the annual OC Fair in the Courtyard. 

  • Thursday, February 17, 2022 (1:01 pm)

    Now accepting entries for the 2022 OC Fair Competitions!

    The OC Fair has begun accepting entries for the annual competitions, which are a long-standing tradition at the summer event – especially for the local fans.

    For the 2022 OC Fair, guests are invited to show off their best talents by participating in more than 20 different competitions.

    Competitions this year include:

    Visual Arts

    • Fine Arts
    • Photography
    • Woodworking

    Hand Crafts & Hobbies

    • Collections
    • Hand Crafts
    • Fiber Arts
    • Jewelry

    Garden & Floral

    • Cut Flowers
    • Fruits & Vegetables
    • Container Plants
    • Floral Arrangements

    Table Settings


    • Bars & Brownies
    • Cookies
    • Sugar Arts & Confections
    • Yeast & Quick Breads
    • Honey
    • Preserved Food & Liqueur


    • Home Wine
    • Commercial Wine


    • Market Livestock Shows
    • Breeding Livestock Shows

    There are also designated divisions and separate competitions for youth.

    Deadlines for entries vary based on category. Competition Guides are available at for each competition. The guides detail rules, regulations, important dates and more. Some competitions are free to enter.

    In 2021, the OC Fair condensed the number of competitions but still received more than 3,000 entries and issued about 1,400 awards. Results for the 2021 OC Fair Competitions are available at, including a city-by-city breakdown of how each O.C. resident fared.

    The OC Fair was recently featured in a documentary about the highly competitive annual Table Settings Competition. SET! was filmed during the 2019 OC Fair and released in 2021 on Discovery+. The film follows the process of several participants in the Table Settings Competition, from registration and brainstorming to finding out whether or not they placed well. Find out more at

    Imaginology, OC Fair’s annual family event focused on education, is also accepting entries for two youth competitions: Mural Project and Cardboard Engineering. The deadline for the Imaginology competitions are March 30; Imaginology takes place April 9-10. For more information, visit

    “Feel the Sunshine” will be the theme of this year’s OC Fair, which take place July 15-Aug. 14. Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Advance ticket purchase is required, and tickets are on sale now.

  • Monday, April 27, 2020 (9:52 am)

    OC Fair Board cancels 2020 Fair due to pandemic

    The OC Fair & Event Center Board of Directors voted unanimously today to cancel the 2020 OC Fair, one of the most anticipated and enduring summer celebrations in Southern California for 130 years. The Board considered ongoing guidance and updated information from State and County health care and government officials about the status of the coronavirus pandemic and the improbability that mass gatherings like the OC Fair could safely and responsibly take place this summer.

    In addition to the regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the Board called a second April meeting specifically to review all options and discuss whether or not to move forward with the 2020 OC Fair. The action comes amid unprecedented community stay-at-home and social distancing orders and will protect guests, vendors and staff during the COVID-19 crisis.

    “The decision to cancel the 2020 OC Fair was not taken lightly by the Board. As Governor-appointed representatives the Board has a responsibility to provide a safe experience to the community-at-large, the hundreds of people who depend on county fairs for their livelihood, fairgoers and OC Fair staff,” said Board Chair Sandra Cervantes. “While many of our guests have expressed extreme disappointment over the idea of the 2020 Fair being canceled, we strongly believe it is the right thing to do in this current situation. However, we will keep the spirit of the OC Fair alive with virtual fair concepts such as contests, competitions, entertainment and concessions to bring the fair experience to guests through and social media.”

    The 23-day OC Fair welcomes more than 1.3 million fairgoers each year and has an estimated economic impact of $350 million annually. The Fair was canceled 1942-1947 during wartime, but otherwise has been a summer staple since 1890. Information on refunds for concert tickets and Super Passes that have already been purchased can be found at

    “We love the OC Fair as much as our guests do. And, while it’s disappointing that the Fair can’t take place this year, we fully support the Board’s decision,” said Michele Richards, OC Fair & Event Center CEO. “But please know OC Fair & Event Center will still be here to serve the community as we plan for the next OC Fair and the eventual return of our wonderful events.”

  • Tuesday, April 7, 2020 (12:40 pm)

    Homebrew and Wine Competitions canceled

    We are sad to announce the cancellation of our Homebrew and Wine Competitions slated to be part of the 2020 OC Fair. These competitions are important to our program and we look forward to their return in 2021.

    For further information about the Commercial Wine and Home Wine Competitions, see a note from OC Wine Society’s president Bill Redding.

    At this time, we will continue to plan for the annual Fair and accept entries for other competitions.

  • Thursday, May 2, 2019 (5:50 pm)

    OC Fair’s Olive Oil Competition winners have been announced!

    The OC Fair is pleased to announce the 2019 Olive Oil Competition Award Winners and share the results at

    Tres Osos was named Best of Show in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil division, and Molefina was named Best of show in the Flavored Olive Oil division. 

    There were 18 gold medalists and 14 silver medalists. A complete list of winners is available (pdf)

    Winners will be featured in the Culinary Arts OC Promenade building during the 2019 OC Fair. Keep an eye out for the tasting bar! 

    COMING UP: May 24 is a big deadline for several competitions, including Photography, Fine Arts, Woodworking and more. For information on OC Fair’s competitions, visit

  • Monday, June 4, 2018 (1:00 pm)

    80 experts judge more than 360 entries in the annual Homebrew Competition

    The heat is on for the 2018 OC Fair competitions!

    Judging for the 31st annual Homebrew Competition was held May 19-20, and with 367 entries and 500 bottles of homebrew entered, the judges had plenty of beers, mead and ciders to sample. Under the guidance of the competition organizers and the Barley Bandits, all of the judges are Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) certified and are able to earn experience points.

    “All beer tasting competitions and contests should be backed by a certification program in order to allow for standardized rules and structures,” said Ashley Ramos, one of the organizers of the competition and an OC Fair employee. “The BJCP gives as a resource to find educated, professional judges to judge our competition.”

    The 80 returning and new judges use the BJCP Style Guidelines to evaluate 34 types of beer; however, there were not as many types of beer six years ago.

    “People started homebrewing because there wasn’t a lot of variety at the store,” said Bryan Dietz, a returning judge. “Homebrew has paved the way for craft beers.”

    Each competitor brings in three bottles of beer and is given an anonymous code, and a group of four to five judges drinks the same beer. Judges use a beer fault list (provided by BJCP) to judge 21 characteristics, including aroma and estery. They also determine if the beer tastes sulfury, or like rotten eggs or burning matches, which would signify that the beer is infected by yeast health or yeast autolysis. These characteristics determine if the beer moves on in the competition or is cut short. The beers that move on in the competition are entered into the Best of Show round and are put back in the fridge for reconsideration.

    “Judging homebrewed beers is a lot like judging a dog show. I may like the dog, but does the dog fit the set definitions that could make it a winner?” Dietz said.

    The judging events also include stewards that clear and serve beers, and refill bread baskets for palette cleansing, as well as perform several other duties.

    “There are many parts to homebrewing, like cooking,” Dietz said. “The goal is to get the perfect combination of flavors to make the best recipe.”

    Since becoming one of the main organizers of the OC Fair Homebrew Competition a decade ago, Spencer Coleman has seen several changes in the homebrew industry.

    “The beers have gotten much better since the increase of educational recourses that are available to brewers,” Coleman said. “The whole beer industry has changed, and there are more breweries since the pre prohibition era.”

    There are plenty of aspects that homebrew competitors are competing for. Besides an award, competitors can also win tickets to this year’s OC Brew Hee Haw, held July 14-15 this year. Winners are awarded first place, second place, third place, or an honorable mention.

    Winners will be announced on Friday, July 13. Check for winners.


    Posted in: Competitions

  • Thursday, December 21, 2017 (4:10 pm)

    Shop award-winning competition catalogs

    Did you know? You can purchase catalogs featuring award-winning photography, fine arts and more featured at the OC Fair!

    2017 OC Fair Photography Competition Awards 

    This book features Best of Show, Division Winners and First Place in Adult, and Best of Show, Division Winners and Best of Class in Young Adult. Also, learn all about the judges.

    Paperback: $15

    2017 OC Fair Woodworking Competition Awards

    This book features Best of Show, Division Winners and First Place in Adult. Also, learn about the judges, featured artists and more. 

    Paperback: $15


    2017 OC Fair Fine Art Competition Awards 

    This book features Best of Show, Division Winners and First Place in Professional and Amateur, and Best of Show, Division Winners and Best of Class in Young Adult. Also, learn about the judges, featured artists, and exhibits on display at the 2017 OC Fair, including Kiel Johnson’s Garden Variety.

    Paperback: $15

    Shop the 2017 and 2016 collections on Amazon at


    Use and set Centennial Farm Foundation as your charity, and a percentage of your purchases will benefit the foundation behind our farm!


    Posted in: Competitions

  • Thursday, June 29, 2017 (4:50 pm)

    OC Wine Society hosts its annual wine competitions, judging more than 3,000 bottles

    Let’s go behind the scenes at one of the country’s most exclusive wine-tasting competitions, hosted by OC Wine Society, where professional judges swirl, sip and savor entries from California wineries to determine who will win the gold at the 2017 OC Fair. 

    The judging process is a sight to behold. The organized chaos works in a constantly flowing circle: stewards pour bottles of wine into glasses, labeling each with numbers for identification, and then serve the judges. After that round of tasting, the stewards maneuver the trays of glasses around to the washers and the dryers while the results are delivered to a group of volunteers who enter the handwritten scores into a computer. Wine is then poured again and around it goes. 

    It’s known as a double-blind tasting. The judges know what the varietal is, but not who made the wine, its price, sugar level or any other information – and stewards are in the dark, too. 

    The OC Wine Society enlisted more than 70 judges who put their expertise to work over a weekend this month tasting some 2,500 bottles of wine for the annual commercial wine competition. Lucky Fairgoers will be able to taste the winning entries in The Courtyard during the Fair that runs July 14 through Aug. 13. (See complete list of 4-star, gold, silver and bronze medalists.)

    “This is the one of the most prestigious competitions in the country because we do only California wines,” said Fran Gitsham, treasurer of OCWS and one of the competition coordinators. “And we’re known to have the highest caliber of judging because we only allow actual winemakers and winery owners and some wine consultants. It’s the elite of the elite.”

    Dennis Esslinger, Director of Judges, pairs up the judges to taste the types of wine they’re best known for, so they are well-versed in what they’re critiquing, Gitsham said.

    If you’re picturing a bunch of wine snobs trying to one-up each other, you’re wrong.

    “You can tell it’s a very congenial event, which I think leads to more thoughtfulness, and there’s no posturing or posing,” said David Stevens, a consultant for Davon International. “You have a chance to evaluate wines exactly the way they are – there are no politics involved.” 

    Stephens has been judging for OCWS for 17 years. Many of the judges have been returning year after year to be a part of the competition.

    “I always look forward to coming to this event,” said Norman Yost of Flying Goat Cellars. “For me, it’s a great opportunity to fine-tune my palette, and also to taste wine with my peers, which we only do once a year.”

    Yost was in a judging panel with Stephens, along with Paul Ahvenainen of Korbel Champagne Cellars and Chris Ehrenberg of Ehrenberg Cellars. In between friendly banter and jokes, Stephens pointed out that the four men have about 100 combined years of experience. Yost has judged for 11 years, and says one of the reasons he returns is because the event is different than others.

    “I think that’s the greatest attraction is they make you feel part of a special clique, and not many events allow that to happen,” Yost said. “Plus you get to taste great wines.”

    OCWS actually hosts two major annual wine competitions at the OC Fair. The week after the professional judging, about 100 judges evaluated some 600 home wine entries.

    While both competitions are run in essentially the same fashion – and with all volunteers – the judging itself is actually quite different. Most notably, the commercial wines are judged by professionals in the wine business while the home wines are judged by trained volunteers. Kevin Donnelly, competition chairman, says all scoring is based on a modified UC Davis 20-point scale. OCWS hosts judging workshops to help the judges stay consistent. 

    Another big difference in the competitions is the Best of the Best award in the home wine competition. This is determined through a consensus by the judging panel. Each judge gives an award based on their individual recommendation, and then the panel of four judges gives a consensus award. If all the judges give a gold in the individual scoring, the wine is labeled a double gold, and these top winners are on display in The Courtyard during the Fair.

    Orange County is represented well in the double gold winners, with home winemakers from Orange, Dana Point, Mission Viejo, North Tustin, Yorba Linda, Lake Forest, Irvine, Santa Ana and Costa Mesa. (See a complete list of home wine competition winners.)

    Esslinger and his wife, Carol, have spent a lot of time reorganizing the competitions, making them what they are today.

    “Everything was manual, not state of the art,” Esslinger said. “When we got involved we started applying engineering principles, using computers to get things organized and automated, and put together a whole sequence of events. There’s tons of reports that get generated to verify bottles and boxes, and a lot of the cross checking from start to finish – most of that didn’t exist when we got started.” 

    Now, OC Wine Society, with over 1,000 members and 350 active volunteers, hosts competitions that flow like wine. 

    “This organization transcends every gender, every sexual orientation, every culture, every religion, every race,” Gitsham said. “This is the way the world should be.”


  • Monday, May 22, 2017 (4:41 pm)

    Olive Oil Competition lends even more flavor to the OC Fair

    A little olive oil goes a long way to enhance food. In California, and specifically Orange County, a bit of olive oil drizzled over a bed of bright green lettuce and fresh, juicy tomatoes with a side of perfectly ripe avocado makes the kind of meal summers are made of.

    So with that freshness in mind, the 2017 OC Fair held its inaugural California Olive Oil Competition, and winners will be featured this summer during the Fair. The competition focused on the Fair’s theme of “Farm Fresh Fun” and was open to all California olive oil producers.

    Fairgoers will be able to enjoy complimentary tastings of these decadent olive oils, as well as learn a few tricks of the trade at food pairing demos hosted by the olive oil makers. The award-winning products will be available for sale in the OC Promenade.

    The olive oils were divided into two divisions for the competition: extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) and flavored olive oils, which could either be co-milled or infused. Gold, Silver and Best of Show medals were awarded.

    The four-member OC Fair Olive Oil Tasting Panel tasted 33 olive oils.

    Nancy Ash, of Strictly Olive Oil, served as head judge and adviser. As a professional olive oil consultant, she has been a frequent judge at various fairs including the California State Fair, the Big Fresno Fair San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition and the Los Angeles County Fair.

    This year’s competition was coordinated by OC Fair & Event Center’s team of Evy Young, agriculture education supervisor; Barbara Gregerson, garden and floral program coordinator; and Pamela Wnuck, culinary arts supervisor.

    Meet the OC Fair Olive Oil Tasting Panel

    Thom Curry – proprietor, Temecula Olive Oil Company; member, California Olive Oil Council Tasting Panel; professional olive oil taster; sommelier and wine tasting judge
    Lawrence Jacobs – conventional and specialty grocery buyer, Oliver’s Markets; member, California Olive Oil Council Tasting Panel
    Arden Kremer – organic and biodynamic grape grower in Sonoma County; member, California Olive Oil Council Tasting Panel
    Kathryn Tomajan – Oleologist; miller; educator; olive grower; expert taster and trained sensory panel member; and member, California Olive Oil Council Tasting Panel

    The OC Fair Olive Oil Tasting Panel received intensive training from members of the California Olive Oil Council pursuant to the guidelines of the International Olive Council.


    Extra Virgin Olive Oils division winners

    Best of Show – Lodi Olive Oil’s Ascolano

    Silver Medals – Tyler Florence Test Kitchen (Blend), Fandango (Blend), Calivirgin Premium (Arbequina), ENZO Ranch 11 (Arbosana), ENZO Ranch 20 (Arbosana) Fandango (Arbequina), San Miguel Olive Farm Pristine (Italian blend), Macala (Blend), ENZO Ranch 11 (Koroneiki) and ENZO Ranch 20 (Koroneiki)

    Gold Medals – Lodi Olive Oil (Ascolano), San Miguel Olive Farm Nectar (Italian Blend), ENZO Ranch 11 (Arbequina) and ENZO Ranch 20 (Arbequina)

    Flavored Olive Oils division winners

    Best of Show – Calivirgin’s Hot Virgin Jalapeno

    Silver Medals – ENZO (Clementine), Calivirgin (Rosemary), Calivirgin (Basil) and ENZO (Basil) and Calivirgin (Garlic)

    Gold Medals – Calivirgin (Blood Orange), Calivirgin (Hot Virgin Jalapeño), Calivirgin (Jalapeño-Garlic), Calivirgin (Lemon), Calivirgin (Habañero) and ENZO (Fresno Chili)