When Adelina La Vita was a young girl, her uncle gave her and her brother $20 each to go to the Royal Canberra Show.
Their mother, who didn’t drive, would shepherd the children from their Chapman home onto a bus to Woden, and then another to Civic, before finally getting to the showground.
“$20 was a lot of money back then,” Ms La Vita said, “and I remember I headed straight for the showbags, keen to get as many as possible – and you could get a lot for $20 back then.
“I also remember we had the best of times, and that I came home absolutely exhausted.”
Fast forward to today and Ms La Vita is looking forward to creating some more memories about the Royal Canberra Show – but this time as its new CEO, the first woman in the job.
“I feel very privileged to be the first woman in the role,” she said. “I have a different background to bring to it – my family came from Italy – but I don’t know whether the gender difference has anything to do with why I am here. I do know that that this role is all about being an ideas person, who can create an event, be innovative and see where that leads to.”
Announcing the appointment, chairman and president of the Royal National Capital Agricultural Society (RNCAS) Rick Jones said the board was confident that Ms La Vita’s extensive experience in events, marketing and business would bring significant value to the RNCAS.
“The RNCAS board of directors is confident that Adelina’s strategic vision, dedication to excellence and extensive experience in iconic Canberra events and digital marketing will lead the organisation to new heights in its mission to showcase the rich agricultural heritage of the Canberra region,” he said.
“I feel she comes to the position with a wealth of experience in executive-level positions, including the ACT Government, leading marketing and communications for Events ACT and successfully delivering Floriade, Enlighten, and the Balloon Spectacular to name a few. ”
Ms La Vita said she was aware she had big shoes to fill – those of outgoing CEO Geoff Cannock. The RNCAS board extended its thanks to Mr Cannock for his service as CEO over the past three years, guiding the society through COVID, fire and floods which so adversely affected the agricultural community.
With an event the size of the Royal Canberra, much of the forward planning was already in place for next year’s show, and Ms La Vita said her first show would be a watch-and-learn process. Mr Cannock will stay on to assist with a smooth transition.
But she said one theme flowed throughout the major Canberra event and the smaller agricultural shows across the capital region.
“Shows like these play an important role in educating people about life on the land – and they also help to bridge the divide between the two ways of life,” she said.
“It’s also all about the younger generation getting involved – they are our future. There has been a resurgence in cottage industries with lots of crafts these days not just applicable to older women – there are some wonderful artistic crafts in fibre art and textile work – that’s what we want to see in the show.”
Showcasing the best of our produce and producers was also key, she said.
“When people show their livestock, they’re showing their livelihoods, they’re showing the passion for what they do – every day on the farm, rain, hail or shine. The show is a reflection of how life is on the land, our agricultural pursuits.
“People coming to the show can sample that experience of life on a farm and they can also participate in so many activities associated with it.”
She said the agricultural show society network in the capital region was strong, with everyone working together for the common goal and supporting each other to ensure their survival.
But she said the glue that held such shows together were the volunteers: “We just couldn’t do without them.”
“The hours they put in, their generosity, so much goodwill, to keep it all sustainable and productive.”
The RNCAS has promoted agricultural shows in the ACT and surrounding regions for about 90 years. The events may have changed over that time but the theme remains the same – city meets country and country meets city – with agriculture always at its core.
Along with the Royal Canberra, the RNCAS also runs the Canberra Region Wine Show, the National Wine Show and the Royal Canberra Poultry Show.
The 2024 Royal Canberra Show is scheduled for 23-25 February.