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Roma marks century-past blast with food & fire fest

Premier Anna Bligh urged Roma and South West residents to join in Saturday's Santos Food and Fire Fest being held in memory of the 'big fire of 1908' when gas was discovered on Hospital Hill in a gas drilling accident.

The inaugural Food and Fire Festival is funded $10,000 by the Queensland Government's Q150 Community Funding program with a view to lifting awareness in Roma of Queensland's 150th Celebrations 2009 (Q150).

Ms Bligh said celebrating a centenary such as this in the lead up to next year's State sesquicentenary helped focus people on how far they had come as individuals, communities, business and as a State and what it is they want to achieve in the future.

"Next year as Queenslanders we'll celebrate our people, our places and our stories," she said.

"The discovery of gas in Roma may have begun with a disaster, but the locals have turned it into a positive and that's refreshing.

"Today the story of the 1908 fire, which burned for 45 days, has become legend and ironically, a tourist attraction for Roma highlighting among other aspects the versatility of gas in every day life.

"Celebrations of the inaugural Santos Food and Fire Fest begin with a build up.

"On Saturday (6/9/08) at 2pm today historical tours begin before a community fire torch relay starts at 5.30pm from Hospital Hill to the Big Rig Parklands where the festival officially opens and the ceremonial bonfire is lit at 6pm.

"Multicultural cuisine, markets and entertainment will help locals and visitors enjoy the night before the grand fireworks finale.

"It's great to see so many communities involved in staging this event and especially with cuisine courtesy of Roma's multicultural community which includes fare from South African, Sri Lankan, Mongolian, Filipino and Dutch communities.

"Most of these people are here now because of the vast gas fields in the area.

"It goes to show just how much Roma has changed in a 100 years.

"I congratulate Council, its business sponsors and the communities that have pulled out all stops to make the Fest a success."

Roma Regional Council's Deputy Mayor, Cr Tom Hartley said Council and the community were proud of the Q150 celebrations and of Roma's celebrating the Big Fire of 1908.

"I remember my grandfather telling me you could read your newspaper at night 6 to 7 miles away because of the gas fire on Hospital Hill," he said.

"'After 45 days, it was a school teacher who came up with the bright idea of putting it out by lowering a big bell over it.

"Just like the Roma Food and Fire Fest reminds us of how far we've come, Q150 helps us realise how far our State's come, from being a little outpost to becoming a major state in Australia."

"My Government's three-round Q150 Community Funding offer of between $2000 and $10,000 for community projects and events close on Friday ( 5 September 2008).

"There are now more than 180 Q150 Community Funding projects around the State. Successful recipients of the third round of Q150 Community Funding will be announced in December 2008.

The program was first offered in 2007 to councils, schools, tertiary institutions, incorporated organisations and community groups to help them plan and stage Q150 celebrations.

2009 marks 150 years since Queensland was created as a colony and separated from New South Wales.

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