For Sheila Quince who grew up showing livestock and judging poultry in FFA and 4-H programs in Sonoma County, it’s not at all surprising she has enjoyed a 30-plus year career working for the Sonoma County Fairs.
“I love the Harvest Fair so much—I feel like it’s my baby that I have been watching grow and mature for all of these years”, laughs Sheila who technically retired from her full-time position in 2011, but returns every year to oversee the important wine judging coordination for the Grand Tasting event.
Sheila was born in San Francisco and in the late 1960’s her family moved to a small ranch in Sonoma County. At Santa Rosa High School she got involved with the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and began showing livestock. She credits FFA for teaching her invaluable skills and public speaking abilities that would lead her to becoming a finalist and ultimately winning a poultry judging state finals competition that led to her representing California at the National Convention in Kansas City, MO.
After graduating high school, Sheila went on to Santa Rosa Junior College and then to CSU Fresno where she earned a degree in Animal Science. While at both she joined the dairy cattle judging team and competed at both the state and national levels for 4 years. She landed her first job back in Santa Rosa at Sonoma County Farm Supply. She also got married in 1980.
It was J Wesley Jamison aka Mr. J., longtime retired ag teacher who first suggested that Sheila speak to Saralee McClelland Kunde about potential career opportunities at the fair. Sheila describes being hired on the spot as a temp in 1982, and as the saying goes—the rest is history.
Sheila’s work was centered around exhibits for both the Sonoma County Fair and the Harvest Fair. After five years, Saralee left her position, and Sheila took over as Premium and Exhibit Coordinator for both fairs managing the many exhibits that included everything from a livestock area showcasing cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, horses, poultry, and rabbits to adult and junior exhibits of arts & crafts, artwork, floriculture & the professional gardens. She also oversaw the fair’s junior livestock auction that each year sold over 1,000 animals raised by 4-H and FFA youth.
Eventually Sheila would shift her focus to the ever-growing professional wine competition. Even in 1999 there were 650 wines submitted for the competition. Today, the number has grown to 973 entries from 126 wineries entered this year.
Sheila can’t hide her deep sense of gratitude and dedication for an event she has presided over for more than 30 years, “The team, the office – everybody is a key part of the wine competition—the whole event makes me so proud and the fact we are still going strong with a robust competition speaks to the caliber of the event”, says Sheila. She also credits the Wine Judging Coordinator, Bob Fraser for his professional expertise, and readily admits the competition could not exist without the dedicated group of 40 volunteers aka the “Back Room Staff” who show up every year to pour countless glasses of wine for the judges.
Even though she has been retired for over 10 years and has a family including two adult children with families including two grandchildren, it seems highly unlikely Sheila has any plans for a final farewell toast anytime soon.