I am a freelance writer and diversional therapist, living in Brisbane's North West. I write for Weekend Notes, Must do Brisbane and Starts at Sixty. Visit my blogs at babybloomin.wordpress.com and brisbanetripster.wordpress.com.
Feel like escaping the "big smoke"? Then this is the event for you! Head west to Millmerran for one of the "must do" festival events in Queensland - the Australian Camp Oven Festival. Held every second year, since 1999, at the Millmerran showgrounds, the festival has become extremely popular and sees the population of Millmerran explode from 1,200 to 8,000 on the weekend of the event. What's all the fuss about? Let me fill you in...
Enjoy live music and entertainment over the weekend
The Millmerran Showgrounds come to life as stages are set up, outback kitchens appear, food and drink stalls take their place, the halls fill with market stalls of every variety and entertainers rehearse their gigs. It's show time!
Obviously, the camp ovens are the star of the show and competition is fierce as camp oven cooks begin vying for over $2000 worth of prize money. Line up for samples of their wares or lash out and buy a meal that's been cooked in a camp oven - you'll be glad you did. Outback cooks with red faces and sweating like, well, outback cooks toil over glowing coals and fiercely hot camp ovens in the hope of scooping the prize. You'll be amazed at what these legends produce from their ovens.
If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen
Aside from the camp oven cooking, workshops and demonstrations there's damper throwing and billy boiling competitions, live music and entertainment, market stalls, vintage machinery, and collections of the outback variety. Demonstrations include: blacksmith, packing a pack horse, wheelwright, rope making, fire lighting and my favourite - the sheepdog and duck demo.
Now whilst all of these attractions are good, I've saved the best for last - the Bush Poets Breakfasts. These guys are not to be missed, they'll make you laugh so much you'll have tears running down your face. The breakfasts take place both mornings. Don't make the same mistake I made and think it's the same line-up each day. The two mornings are completely different. Get there early and grab some brekky, ready to settle in for the laughs.
The crowd gathers for the Bush Poet's Breakfast - take your own chair!
Things you should take with you: sunscreen, water bottle, hat and your own camp chair if you're planning on watching the entertainment. Seats are provided but are soon filled, especially at the Bush Poet's Breakfasts. The weather can be tricky at this time of the year with cool evenings and stinking hot days, so be prepared for every possibility.
Your dog's welcome, as long as you're responsible for it!
Where to stay: powered and unpowered campsites are available at the showgrounds and can be booked online this year. You can also purchase your tickets online and receive a discount for doing so. The festival is run solely by volunteers so online transactions are no doubt appreciated. There's not a lot of shade at the showgrounds and campsites are closely packed in, so if you like a bit of space around you, perhaps the Millmerran Holiday Village Caravan Park would be an option for you. This caravan park is only a short drive from the showgrounds and is well maintained, quiet and peaceful. Most sites are shaded to some degree, facilities are excellent and Managers, Tony and Dawn, are very hospitable. If you're not a camper, Tony and Dawn have various other styles of accommodation to offer. October may seem a while away but Tony tells me sites are filling fast so don't miss out on a spot - call and book ahead.
Lakeside camping at the Millmerran Village Caravan Park
The drive from Brisbane to Millmerran will take 2 hours and 39 minutes but is well worth it. You can break the journey and stretch your legs along the way. A quick stop at The Girls Coffee Bar at Marburg is a good pitt stop and if you hit Toowoomba around lunch time why not stop at the Spotted Cow in Ruthven Street, Toowoomba for a bite to eat and a cool drink before the final stretch to Millmerran? Get out of the city and enjoy a weekend out west.
$40 per person for a weekend pass but there are variations on prices. There are several camp oven cooks selling their meals and prices vary. This isn't an organised, formal sit down dinner, you just but what you want from various cooks. Since this article was written the web address has apparently changed towww.acof.com.au All the info is on this website.