Well, for those of you who didn't know, Her Majesty the Queen was in Edmonton this week to help celebrate Alberta's 100th Anniversary. As a third generation Albertan, who's family arrived as pioneers in Alberta in 1896 (before it was even Alberta), I was looking forward to celebrating the 100th Anniversary of my home province. I had the opportunity to attend two events, one good, and one less than good. :P
On Monday's soggy afternoon, my good friend Lindsay and I made our way over to Commonwealth Stadium for what had been played up as Alberta's "Big Birthday Bash". Well, if by "Big" they meant small, and by "Bash" they meant sucks, and by "Birthday" they meant Ralph's going away party, then they were right on the mark. It was a cold, rainy, dreary, cloudy, and cold day here in Edmonton. The event started out with us finding our seats and pulling on our plastic rain parkas. On our way to find our seats, we went to pick up a free Alberta 2005, Alberta, and Canadian Flags. I'm assuming due to the low turnout (about 15,000 out of 50,000 tickets distributed) the volunteers were handing out flags like they were going out of style. Not only did I get 8 "Royal Visit" buttons dumped into my hands, but I also got 3 Alberta 2005 flags, 8 Alberta flags, and 6 Canadian flags. Sounds like a sound use of Provincial Tax Dollars.
After we found our seats (we were soaked from head to toe by that point), we unfortunately had to sit for the next hour and listen to two of Edmonton's "local celebrities" ramble on and on about how great Alberta is and how great the history of our province is, blah, blah, blah...
Due to the rain and cold about 80% of the entertainment was cancelled. Apparently there was no contingency plan for the party. In Alberta, where the weather can change on a dime, it surprised me that there wasn't some kind of contingency plan.
So, a couple of marching bands trumped in the Stadium, the main band was cancelled (so they stuck in a CD, very very classy), and then in came Ralph and his wife in a sporty little car. Woo hoo. The crowd was less than excited. So far, the day sucked.
Then the moment all 15,000 of us were waiting for, Her Majesty the Queen and His Highness the Duke of Edinburgh arrived. Their plane had been delayed, so they arrived about half an hour later than scheduled. They came in, the crowd, wet and cold, cheered. She walked around, and then sat down in a tent. At that point some singer came on stage and started singing some song about Alberta. At that point, we left. So, not only was there no “big party” at the end of the celebration (which we had been promised), but it seems they skipped the celebration entirely. Not even a piece of cake. Well, Happy Birthday, Alberta.
Reeling from the suckiness of the Alberta event, I was looking forward to the Government of Canada dinner in honour of the Royal visitors at Northlands Agricom on Tuesday evening. Things looked good, I rented a tux, my date was beautiful in her stunning pink evening gown, and we were ready to go.
Driving up in our taxi, we joined the line to get in the Agricom. Taking a look up the line of about 300 guests (I believe there were around 1200 guests at the dinner), I could see Advanced Ed Minister Dave Hancock, Tory MP Kevin Sorenson, and Liberal MLA Mo Elsalhy and their guests. Entering the main reception area, I spied with my little political eye many a politician. Jack Layton and Olivia Chow, Weslyn Mather, Jason Kenney, Jim Prentice, Ken Epp, Rahim Jaffer, James Rajotte, Rona Ambrose, Stephen Mandel, Michael Phair, etc, etc, etc… Also there was daveberta’s good friend Nic who looked fantastic (as usual).
The night smelled of decadence. It was like I was a member of the bourgeoisie for an evening and it was fun and funny at the same time. People looked great and I had some very interesting conversations with some very interesting people.
Sitting at my table were also some very interesting people. One of them, who I shall call “Lord Eric Chesterfield” (he looked kind of like this), was a British chap who was on the “Palace Invitation list” as he put it. He was an interesting gentleman who entertained us with stories of his entertaining the Royals on his private yatch in Victoria. He was so connected he even pointed out who the Queen’s hairdresser was.
Also sitting at our table was a member of the Palace staff; one of the Queen’s Footmen, which from what I understand is like a personal assistant/butler. He was a very nice guy who had some real cool stories.
When her Majesty was presented in, she was dressed like a Queen, from head to toe. The Prime Minister said a speech and a toast, and then the Queen stepped up to the mike and replied. During her response, she switched from English to French a number of times (which confused many people in the hall, as this is Alberta). She had a very nice reply and handled herself very well. Following her reply, the night progressed very smoothly.
So, overall, it was a very enjoyable evening.