Rolla prepares for 100th anniversary celebration

It was in 1912 that Lea Miller and his family settled in the area – located about 23 kilometres northeast of Dawson Creek – after making the long trek from Rolla, Missouri, where their new home took its name from. As chair of the volunteer committee organizing the centennial celebration, Janet Loiselle, great granddaughter of Lea and Mary Miller, took the opportunity at a Peace River Regional District Meeting held in Rolla this morning to explain the festivities that are tentatively planned and a little bit of the history behind the community.

She said the celebration is slated for Aug. 3-5, 2012. She said they hope to host a wine and cheese reception with live entertainment on Friday night; a farmers' market, more entertainment and ball games throughout Saturday and a dance that evening; and a pancake breakfast and church service on Sunday.

Other proposed activities include fireworks, horse-and-wagon rides, children's games and much more. She said transportation to the events will be arranged for residents who need it in Rolla and in Dawson Creek.

If feasible, they would like to arrange for wagon rides between Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek, she added.

The committee is also hoping to arrange for artistic signage to put up around the community, a new mural to be designed for the community hall, and a commemorative marker to be put in a location that has yet to be decided.

"We're looking forward to a great weekend," said Loiselle.

The celebration is certainly ambitious, as it's anticipated to cost $260,000. The committee has applied for not-for-profit status in order to be eligible for a federal grant of up to $200,000 provided for community anniversary celebrations such as this one. They propose to raise other revenues through registration fees, souvenir and calendar sales, donations and sponsorships.

She was able to secure one such sponsorship through the regional district, as the board approved a $5,000 grant, as well as a letter of support for the committee's federal grant request, later in their meeting.

Loiselle's father, John Miller, was in the gallery that morning, and he said the centennial celebration is very important to him personally.

"When I think about all of things my grandparents and my dad had to go through to get here, it's really significant to me," he said. "You wouldn't believe the problems they had – it took them 12 years to get here from Rolla, Missouri, and they lost two children along the way."

He said his family was trying to escape the hard times that had plagued them as farmers in the United States, and they were lured to Western Canada by the promise of open prairie and fertile soil. He said they stayed because of the beauty of the land and the quality of the people who came to settle there later.

Now 80 years old, Miller said he has seen Rolla change quite a bit from when he was a child. He said he remembers the rough gravel roads – where "you did more miles up and down then you did forward" – before they were paved. He added there certainly a lot more people living in and around the community now than he remembers growing up.

"In the early days you might see one vehicle a day on the road, and I know I go out of my gate and I count the cars behind me and in front of me and there's usually an average of five."

His daughter added the celebration is very special for her as well, as she has many fond memories of growing up in Rolla.

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