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Enthusiastic show entrant keen to clock up 81 entries, despite only having use of one hand

81 year-old woman Vida Maney is in her kitchen preparing food for the Mundulla Show
Eighty-one-year-old Vida Maney preparing one of her 81 entries for this year's Mundulla Show.

ABCTV Back Roads: Karen Michelmore

A woman who has been an enthusiastic show entrant for 58 years is keen to enter as many contests at the local show as she has been alive — 81.

The sun has barely risen in Mundulla, in south-east South Australia, but Vida Maney is already frantic, working as if her life depends on it.

One by one, she carefully slips the stems of beautiful pink and white flowers into the tiniest of bottlenecks, to enter in the cut flowers categories.

Ms Maney, who features in the return of Back Roads on ABC TV tonight, only has the use of one hand, her right, because of an injury at birth.

But she will not talk about that. Not now anyway. There simply is not time

"[It's] desperate. Time ticks over faster than I do," she rushes.

It is the morning of South Australia's annual Mundulla Show and Ms Maney is preparing the last of her dozens of competition entries.

Elderley woman, Vida Maney on a buggy in Mundulla
Vida Maney collects entries for the show.

ABC TV Back Roads: Karen Michelmore

Ms Maney is 81 and determined to enter as many contests as years she has been alive, across the categories of cut flowers, pot plants, yeast cookery, ginger beer, and preserves.

She has been an enthusiastic entrant for 58 years — more than half the 106-year life of the show.

For at least 15 of them she has been crowned champion for submitting the most show entries.

"I would have liked to take advantage probably of my disability, but there was no way she would allow that.

"If I said 'I can't do that' she'd say 'Try harder', and that was her attitude pretty well to life in general I think — try harder."

There are 5 cakes presented for the Mundulla show.
The competition is fierce for the best cake at the Mundulla Show.

ABC TV Back Roads: Karen Michelmore

Community keeps show alive

Country shows are the lifeblood of rural towns like Mundulla, near the Victorian border.

"It puts the district on show but it really is about the community working together," Ms Maney said.

"We get involved because we are proud of the community, but also because over the years the show has had wonderful support and we don't want to see it fade away.

Various Vegetables in a basket ready to be judged for the 2015 Mundulla Agricultural Show
These vegetables are fresh and ready for judging.

ABC TV Back Roads: Karen Michelmore

Vibrant show a sign of life in town

About 600 country and city shows are held around Australia each year, according to the Agricultural Societies Council of New South Wales.

President David Peters said Australia's first shows — more than 150 years ago — were all about promoting agriculture in the fledgling colonies, which were struggling to feed themselves.

These days, there is often a link between a show's vibrancy and the ultimate survival of the town.

There is no such problem in Mundulla, a town full of life.

Earlier this year it competed as a national finalist in Keep Australia Beautiful's Tidy Town awards, and was named the best town for community action and well-being in Australia.

Mundulla foresaw potential future problems with its show and in 1998 made sweeping changes. Now the show is thriving.

"We were innovative," Ms Maney said.

"People were prepared to put entries in, they weren't worrying about winning prize money. You got a blue ticket or a red ticket and that was all, and the entries doubled in that first year we tried that."

Young people given the chance to be involved

Four years later, Mundulla also completely restructured how it ran the show, and made a genuine effort to involve young people.

"Everybody says they want their young people involved, but then there's an older person telling them what to do," Ms Maney said.

"We give them a job and they do their best at it. And it works. They do a really good job at that.

An 81 year-old Woman is collecting flowers in Mundulla for an Agricultural Show
Ms Maney collecting the perfect samples from her impressive garden.

ABC TV Back Roads: Colin Jones

This year's show received almost 1,800 entries — that's 10 for every Mundulla resident.

Ms Maney now has the younger generation snapping at her heels, with 15-year-old Amy Steer gunning for the most-show-entries title.

Amy has raced home from boarding school to finalise her cooking, photography and metalwork pieces she will submit for show-day judging, plus the quilt she made with her grandmother.

"I just enjoy putting in entries in the show, just to sort of have something to do for the show," Amy said.

Handing over the reins

Dozens of empty green and clear glass bottles remain precariously in waiting, bunched tightly together on a thin wooden workbench in the family garage at Ms Maney's house.

She may seem anxious, but she is secretly delighted about the competition from the younger generation — she has been waiting for someone to step up for a while now.

"She's got years of showing ahead of her," Ms Maney said.

"Oh yes, I'm ready to hand over to somebody else sillier than me," she smiles.

ABC TV's Back Roads program begins its second season tonight at 8:00pm.