Since 2009 Expo Alta Val Trebbia has become an unmissable event of the summer season. Organised in the woods of Loco di Rovegno (location Giaia), the event takes place in July. We spoke to Stefano Parodi, one of the organisers, who in this post unveils the backstage of the Expo which, started as a grass roots event, is now attracting more than ten thousand visitors eager to discover the entrepreneurial spirit of Val Trebbia.
1. Who is Expo Alta Val Trebbia and how was it born?
‘Expo Alta Val Trebbia is a local committee from Loco di Rovegno. In spring 2009, with the intention of organising a few events including the Expo, we decided to gather under this name. This is how the Expo Alta Val Trebbia Committee was born.
The committee can count on about ten people, and is a very diversified group.
Alessio, the mind behind the project and chair of the committee, works as event manager both in Italy and Europe. To give you an overview of his expertise, I will just mention his activity for the Salone Nautico at the Genoa Exhibition Center, which he takes part in every year.
Daniele has a degree in International Studies and studied abroad, in Geneve. He is one of the organisation’s most active members and represents our future. He is a music lover and loves experimenting with new sounds (he also plays the bass for Mc Namara Playground Heroes). It goes without saying the he is our reference for what concerns music events.
Simone is an IT graduate and created our website: he is our IT specialist.
Among the other members feature Danilo (an excellent bar manager) Luca (civil engineer) Chiara (Human Resources) Federica (Education Sciences) and myself (Humanities/broker) plus other precious contributors, such as Paola Velluto (architect) and the Carenini brothers (construction workers and main entrepreneurs of Loco).
The common element uniting all of us is the shared love for our village and our beautiful Val Trebbia. This reason brought to a shared enthusiasm which led us to organise an event such as the Expo in just a few months. It is a unique event in the valley, as it brings together local, institutional and entertainment realities and also offers parties through the whole summer.
2. From theory to practice: how did you get in touch with potential exhibitors and what were the main challenges you met?
Getting in touch with the exhibitors was not that difficult. Alta Val Trebbia is not big and we all know each other somehow. We just went straight to the potential exhibitors and asked them in person. It was surely more difficult to overcome the initial skepticism which characterises the local population. Everybody familiar with Genoa and its surroundings knows that, if in the city skepticism is already an issue, in the countryside things are much worse. The mindset is really narrow and people who try to propose something new are seen badly, as if they wanted to disturb the peace of these places. Sometimes the skepticism is also dictated by the fear that underneath any proposal might lie economic interests (which surely is not the case for the Expo). At the same time, if you don’t suggest anything new, you are criticised anyway and labeled as not caring enough about the valley. We just tend to ignore this kind of criticism and we continue on our path, trying to get better year after year.
3. Past and present: how did the Expo develop, both from a quantitative and qualitative point of view and how did its popularity spread beyond local borders?
The Expo has surely grown in these years. We reached the 4th edition now and our main goal now is not based on expanding but rather on improving and consolidate our position. The woods around Loco (location Giaia), and the banks of river Trebbia, provide the best natural frame for the event. A tennis court, beach volley grounds and two pavilions are the background for the Expo. The whole surface of the location is used for the Expo and is divided according to themes: institutional/cultural section, producers, food and wine, sports. About ten thousand visitors come to the Expo over 3/4 days and we are supported by the local authorities, the Province of Genoa and the Genoa Chamber of Commerce, plus Fondazione Carige. We are getting quite some attention from Piacenza and its surroundings too. All of this to say that the Expo has become an unmissable event of the summer season in Val Trebbia.
4. What will the 2012 edition hold?
I cannot reveal it! You have to come and visit us from July 20th to the 22nd in Loco di Rovegno! I can only say that we will organise something special on the occasion of the 100 anniversary of poet Giorgio Caproni‘s birth. He spent most of his life in Loco and married a local woman, the Rina he describes in his poems, and also wanted to be buried in our tiny cemetary. We will try to honour his memory the best we can.
5. I guess the preparation for the event takes more time than the actual exhibition days. How is the background activity organised?
In September, once the summer season is over, we meet to assess what has been done so far. We discuss, sometimes even quarrel if necessary, and then we decide if we should go on with our projects or not. If the verdict is positive we meet again in December to start designing the plan for the following year. From that moment up to July, in compliance with our work and private necessities, we meet again and discuss several proposals and ideas. This year we decided to do everything much earlier and this is why we will officially introduce the 2012 edition on April 28th in Rovegno. The most important moment of the day will be a poetry reading of Caproni’s works. It goes without saying, you are all invited!
6. Do you know if any new project started locally thanks to the Expo?
The Expo is not just an important showcase but also a small workshop for new ideas to be born and for people to meet and discuss how to launch new projects. Let’s say that something started to come up but there is always the need for someone to show the way first. We hope the Expo will help promote more initiatives and events. Our own work is not just limited to the Expo either. We enjoy organising a beach volley tournament and a few concerts during the summer.
7. From what you could observe through the Expo, what kind of future awaits Val Trebbia in your opinion?
The future of Val Trebbia is at risk, independently from our commitment. Fewer and fewer people live in the countryside and the new generations did not prove to have many ideas so far. Somebody thought that the current economic crisis would bring more people back to living in the valley, but they were wrong. As far as we are concerned, we will always be here. Some of us is going to try and enter in politics at the upcoming elections in Rovegno. We will wait and see how things develop. We are not the saviours of Val Trebbia and we are not naive. However we firmly believe that the values belonging to this area, its traditions, crafts, local producst and culture represent a treasure which should not be lost in time.
If one day Val Trebbia will be a dead and abandoned place (which we hope will not be the case of course), we are sure it will still preserve its particular charm, which moved Hemingway to call it the “most beautiful valley in the world”. We will surely be the last ones to leave and, if people will tell us “we told you it would happen”, we will reply just as Jack Nicholson did in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: “At least we tried”.
Featured image: Associazione Turistica Loco