Millmerran Camp Oven Festival – 2012

The Millmerran Camp Oven Festival is held every two years. The name suggests that the festival is all about camp ovens; in fact it is a country festival to please many different tastes. There is plenty of country music, bush poetry, whip cracking, damper throwing, art classes, cooking demonstrations, didgeridoo workshops, black smith demonstration, bush craft demonstration and many other activities to take part in or to watch. We had a great time – not only because of the presentations, but also because we enjoyed the atmosphere and the great company.

Main stage where the bush poets and the bands performed

Blacksmith at work. Later on the blacksmiths gave a demonstration of horse shoeing.

Using a bushman’s lathe to turn a piece of timber. If I remember correctly, he called it a whip lathe as the overhead sapling whips back and returns the rope to the starting position.

Sheep shearing

Sheep dog attempting to herd ducks. The ducks were not behaving and the handler gave up in the end, trying with a different flock.

Demonstration how to pack a pack horse.

Ranger Nick Cooking Demonstration with heat beads. He cooked a quiche in a camp oven.

Heating up the heat beats in a stove pipe that has been cut for airflow.

Damper throwing competition

The Camp Oven Competition is serious business. The entry fee of $80.00 for the Championship is an indication of the commitment level required to take part in this championship. The menu in 2012 was quite challenging with all of the following items requiring preparation on site:

Event 1
Damper Plain
Damper Savoury or Sweet
Brownie Traditional
Loaf of Bread – your choice

Event 2
Whole Chicken baked in a country bread served with honey carrots and three other vegetables
Apple Strudel and custard

Event 3
Cheese Straw
Apple Turnover
Tea Cake
Chelsea Bun

Event 4
Mystery Bag: In this event competitors will be given a bag containing 4 mystery ingredients. Teams will then have to use those ingredients as the base for their entry for this section. Teams can use other ingredients with their entry. Judges will decide on who has used their given ingredients in the most creative and tasty way.

For the less competitive and less experienced there is also a beginners competition. This is a much less serious competition – fun is the main aspect of this event. Who knows in two years time (4th & 5th of October 2014) we might be ready to take part in the beginners category. At the moment we don’t even own a camp oven!

The art of Camp Oven Cooking relies on being able to control the heat in the camp oven. The oven is placed on hot coals and hot coal is also placed on the lid of the camp oven which has a special ridge to hold coals in place. Coal is traditionally obtained by burning timber until there are no more flames and the timber is just glowing. Today heat beads are often used as heat source – but this is not allowed in the competitions. In fact it probably would not be used in the championship competition even if it were allowed. Some of these guys are so serious about the competition, they bring their own wood in preference to the wood supplied by the festival.

The competition is held in roped off areas. You can see the camp ovens but otherwise it is difficult to get a feeling what is happening. I would have liked some scoreboard to inform us how the competition is going. Unfortunately I also missed the prize giving ceremony so I don’t know who won what.

There is also a prize for the best looking cooking site. I suppose this group thought the addition of an old fashioned dunny would add to the atmosphere.

While we couldn’t look into the pots of the competitors, it was possible to watch the preparations for food being sold to the public.

This set of a cut down gas bottle, a camp oven, a wind break and the device for heating the heat beads and holding them ontop of the camp oven was for sale for $190. Currently baking damper.

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