CALGARY — Two of the country’s biggest summer shindigs will bookend Prince William and Kate’s visit to Canada — a trip the government is already expecting to be an international media circus.
The newlyweds will begin their first official overseas tour in Ottawa where they will attend Canada Day celebrations and end it at the Calgary Stampede, the world-famous annual hoedown in Alberta.
In the middle, there will be stops in Quebec City, Montreal, Yellowknife, Charlottetown, and Summerside, P.E.I. Kate is reportedly a big fan of “Anne of Green Gables,” the legendary children’s book set on Prince Edward Island.
“This is part of what nation building is all about — hosting these kind of events,” Heritage Minister James Moore told a news conference in Calgary on Monday.
“Hosting the duke and duchess is an honour for Canada and we look forward to having them visit all of these different regions.”
Most Canadians are familiar with the Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa, where thousands gather on Parliment Hill to wave flags, listen to music and enjoy a fireworks display.
Moore predicted William and Kate’s appearance will swell crowds.
“We expect tens of thousands of people to come out,” he said. “It will be perhaps the largest Canada Day celebration in history on Parliament Hill.”
Calgary Stampede officials say they are thrilled about the royal visitors, but have no idea what role they will play while visiting.
Often referred to as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Stampede attracts tourists from all over the globe each year. For 10 days the city becomes a bastion of cowboy kitch. Everyone from mild-mannered accountants to sales clerks to CEOs tosses away regular attire and switches to cowboy hats, boots and jeans.
The rodeo is the main draw, but there are other popular items as well. The midway cuisine this year includes a doughnut burger or pork chop on a stick along with favourites such as the hot beef sundae and just about any other item that can be deep fried.
The Stampede is not without it critics. Last year, a British group called League Against Cruel Sports suggested to British travel agencies that they refuse to offer vacation packages to the event. More than 50 MPs signed a motion in the British House of Commons that asked the Canadian government to improve how animals were treated at the rodeo.
Word of the royal visit had the owner of Cowboys, one of the busiest honky tonks during Stampede, offering William and Kate the royal treatment. Paul Vickers said that would include free two-step dance lessons, a chance to ride a mechanical bull and seats in the VIP section.
The venue has attracted royalty before. Prince William’s younger brother, Harry, visited the bar while he was on leave from military training at CFB Suffield in southern Alberta four years ago.
“His brother probably put a good reference in for us,” Vickers said with a laugh.
“Harry’s been there so 100 per cent William knows who we are and may have the curiosity to see what all the fanfare was about. He’s a young guy, too, and they are a young couple and it would not be politically incorrect for them to come.”
Prince Harry’s visit to the bar became fodder for British tabloids largely due to his “taking a shine” to a young female bartender. Cherie Cymbalisty sold the story of her encounter with the prince to a tabloid, which included details about sharing several private drinks with the prince and reportedly getting a kiss on the cheek from him.
The federal government is preparing for “massive” international media coverage of the tour. More than 85 journalists from the United Kingdom have already signed up to cover it. Only 18 came for the Queen’s last trip to Canada last summer, Moore said.
Canadian taxpayers will be on the hook for costs associated with the visit. Moore would not give an estimate of the total, but said it would be under the $2 million shelled out for the Queen’s trip.
“This is actually a very modest event in terms of costs. Many of the events that they are going to be taking part in are events that are already taking place … so they will be visiting and taking in events that were already scheduled rather than doing events on the road, which sometimes can have some big costs.”
The government says a full itinerary is being developed with municipal, provincial, territorial and federal partners and private organizations. It will be released at a later date.