Foster Show’s own media and promotion officer Sammy Spark became the runner-up in the Victorian Agricultural Shows’ (VAS) Rural Ambassador State Final awards held at the Royal Melbourne Show on Sunday September 24. 2023.
As the Foster Show’s Rural Ambassador representative, Sammy went on to succeed at Central and South Gippsland Group level before placing second to the Wimmera Group’s Kaniva Show Rural Ambassador Louise Hobbs at the State Final.
The other four Rural Ambassadors in the highly-competitive field of six finalists were Pakenham Show’s Tess Runting, also part of the Central and South Gippsland Group; Edenhope Show’s Hayley Grigg, Western Group; National Ag Show Mildura’s Allegra Bottrell-Thorburn, Northern District Group; and Numurkah Show’s Emily Peck, Goulburn Valley Riverina Group.
The VAS Rural Ambassador finalists were judged by James Kirkpatrick, Casey Bruce and Kimberly Pellosis, with the support of sponsors Gallagher Insurance, Melbourne Royal and RB Sellars.
Originally from the NSW South Coast, Sammy’s love for the land began with her involvement in her local show and it continues to grow today in parallel with her chosen professional career.
Born into a defence force family, Sammy branched out and studied veterinary science at Charles Sturt University.
During this time, she also developed a passion for working with producers at the start of the production chain, enhancing animal health and welfare, and her local show further solidified this interest in the agricultural industry.
Sammy loves that country shows are a chance to celebrate rural producers and bring the local community together.
Sammy moved to South Gippsland to chase her dream of being a large and small animal veterinarian and was soon on the Foster Show committee.
She also takes part in the Rural Women’s Network Mentoring Program; organises and presents courses for small landholders in the area and enjoys playing in an energetic local mixed netball competition.
At the Rural Ambassador State Final, Sammy spoke about her role as the Foster Show’s media officer and described agricultural shows as “an integral part of rural communities that is generating traditions, celebrations and friendships.”
Posing the question of how to keep agricultural shows alive, Sammy said that new digital as well as older-style media platforms both have their roles to play in promoting a show and in widening its audience, so “people can enjoy the show, even from afar”.
“I’m proud of the community’s strength, its adaptability and the strategic way people can implement social media, broadcasting, radio and publishing as our media platforms,” she said.
“The Bureau of Statistics reports that younger people are more likely to engage with digital media, and older generations with traditional media.
“Our $40 ad on Facebook reached nearly 5000 viewers last year, while Foster’s ageing demographic likes our weekly newspaper articles, and we have diversified into boutique magazines and larger newspapers,” Sammy said.
“In the future we will look at more radio, and wider social media, including Instagram, and maybe even TikTok!” she said.
“We need to be dynamic to maintain the tradition of attending the show, and we can help keep the Foster Show alive if we can continue to engage patrons in a variety of ever-evolving media platforms.”
Foster Show secretary Denia Gilheany was at the Royal to witness the Rural Ambassador finalists’ speeches as well as the presentation ceremony, which was highlight of the Royal Melbourne Show’s 175th anniversary luncheon.
“Congratulations to Sammy Spark on her awesome achievement being named as the VAS Rural Ambassador State Final Runner-up, and well done to Louise Hobbs who took the top gong, a supreme effort among an inspiring crop of finalists.
“The future is bright with ladies like these flying the flag for our agriculture industry!” she said.
“Everyone involved in the Foster Show was super proud to have Sammy compete in the Rural Ambassador State Final in Melbourne.
“Sammy has been a valuable member of the Foster Show committee as our media liaison, working hard to ensure that as many members of the public as possible are informed about our show and its competitions,” Denia said.
“We are all delighted that Sammy did so well on the weekend, and as far as we’re concerned, she’s a real winner in our book!”