BY LINDA MONDOUX
If you’re in the mood to party, you won’t have to look far, with communities across Ontario set to unleash Canada Day celebrations, complete with spectacular fireworks lighting up the skies over rivers and lakes from Leamington to Cobourg to Kingston and beyond.
The biggest party of them all, however, will be held in Ottawa on Parliament Hill, where up to 500,000 people are expected to gather for a glimpse of the royal newlyweds, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are joining this year’s July 1 bash celebrating Canada’s 144th birthday. “It will be the most watched, most written about tour in Canadian history,” says Heritage Minister James Moore.
Excitement in the nation’s capital is at fever-pitch as the welcome mat rolls out for Prince William and his new bride, Catherine Middleton, who have made Ottawa the first stop on their Canadian tour.
Everywhere you go, the talk is about Wills and Kate, whose wedding, capped with a very public balcony kiss, was televised to the world on April 29. The local newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen
, has rolled out life-size cutouts of the royals, taking them on tours of city sights, including the Rideau Canal, National Gallery of Canada, ByWard Market, Dow’s Lake and the Fairmont Château Laurier for a spot of tea. Downtown businesses have caught royal fever, too, with the Lord Elgin baking up a special wedding cake honouring the royal newlyweds. You can check it out at the hotel’s main entrance.
If you haven’t booked a room for the big event, you might have to travel to the suburbs, as hotels and B&Bs anywhere near the downtown area are booked solid with royal watchers and media. About 1,3000 journalists — including more than 200 from around the world — have been accredited to cover the nine-day visit, which begins in Ottawa and ends in Calgary.
While the Ottawa leg of the royal tour is packed with official business, the public will have several opportunities to see Wills and Kate during their three-day stay in the capital, which includes a Canada Day walkabout on Parliament Hill:
Thursday, June 30
Wills and Kate arrive at the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport with their entourage of seven staff, including hairdresser James Pryce, who styled the duchess’s hair for the wedding. It is doubtful the royals will be picking up their luggage at the carousel inside the terminal, so don’t bother waiting there with your camera. But you might spot them as they leave the airport in the car that will take them into the heart of the capital.
The couple places a wreath at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. The memorial is located at Confederation Square, at the corner of Elgin and Wellington streets, across from the East Block on Parliament Hill. Warning:
Parking downtown will be a challenge during the royal tour, so come early and consider public transit so you can grab a prime royal-watching spot.
Wills and Kate will be introduced to the public at Rideau Hall by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston, who makes his home there. “All are invited on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the home of the people,” Johnston said during a news conference outside the residence, known for its beautiful gardens, which are open for tours. “Let’s make them feel at home.” To accommodate the crowds, people are asked to start gathering at 1 p.m. Rideau Hall is located across the street from 24 Sussex Drive, home of the prime minister, in the upscale Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood.
Wills and Kate attend a Celebration of Youth barbecue in the garden at Rideau Hall. The public is not invited, so don’t bother hanging around waiting for a glimpse of the royals, as the garden area can’t be seen from the property’s fences.
Friday, July 1 (Canada Day)
Wills and Kate attend a citizenship ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Civilization across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Que., where they will hand 25 new Canadians their certificates of citizenship. The public is not invited, but you can watch out for the royals as they drive across the Interprovincial Bridge, which connects Ottawa and the Hull section of Gatineau. Don’t wait for their return, however, because you’ll want to grab a good spot on Parliament Hill for the noon-hour Canada Day party kickoff. Warning:
Several downtown streets will be closed July 1, including sections of Wellington, Rideau, Sparks and Queen streets all day, and Mackenzie King Bridge, Alexandra Bridge and Rideau Canal Locks in the evening to accommodate the giant fireworks display over the Ottawa River at 10 p.m.
The royals, travelling in a landau, will be escorted to the Metcalfe/Wellington entrance to Parliament Hill for an official ceremony at the Centennial Flame. They will be accompanied by Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife, Sharon. Waiting there to greet them will be Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen and their children, along with Heritage Minister James Moore. After a short walk to the Centennial Flame, the Ceremonial Guard Band will play God Save the Queen. This will be followed by a 21-gun salute, an inspection of the Guard of Honour by the Governor General and the playing of O Canada. The ceremony wraps up with a CF-18 flypast over Parliament Hill. Warning: if you decide to wait for Wills and Kate around the Centennial Flame, prime spots around the main stage may be gone by the time you get there after the ceremony.
The royals and the official party walk from the Centennial Flame to the royal box on the main stage for the noon music show. Good photo-ops if you are lucky enough to be close to the stage.
12:25 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
The show on the main stage kicks off with Julie Nesrallah singing God Save the Queen a cappella, followed by a nine-plane formation by the Snowbirds aerobatic team. Once the roar dies down, Maria Aragon, the 10-year-old made famous with her Lady Gaga duet, will sing O Canada. More Snowbirds, more music and then Prince William will take to the microphone for a few remarks before Sam Roberts performs. More speeches, then a performance by Great Big Sea and a closing number with all the performers. Wills and Kate will then meet the performers on stage. Plenty of opportunities for photos here.
The royal pair will leave the stage and head into the crowd for a walkabout before taking the afternoon off. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to shake a royal hand or two. If you’re too far back in the crowd, you can always raise your camera high in the royals’ vicinity, click away and hope for the best.
Saturday, July 2
Wills and Kate plant a tree in the Royal Grove at Rideau Hall to commemorate their tour. This is not listed as a public event, but you can wait at the gate because the royals will soon emerge for their next appointment.
The royals meet veterans and their families at a private reception at the Canadian War Museum. Unless you are invited, you won’t be allowed in. But if you want parting photos of Wills and Kate — they will leave for Montreal shortly after the reception — you can hang out at the doors of the museum, which is located along the shores of the Ottawa River on the fringe of downtown Ottawa.
Even without the royals, Canada Day in the Capital’s live entertainment continues throughout the afternoon and evening on Parliament Hill and in the neighbouring Major’s Hill Park and across the river at Jacques-Cartier Park in Hull. The party wraps up with spectacular fireworks over the Ottawa River, starting at about 10 p.m.
Can’t make it to Ottawa? Here are three of our other favourite July 1 fireworks displays on the waterfront:
This year marks the 25th annual Friendship Festival, an international celebration of the culture and heritage shared by Canada and the United States across the aptly named Peace Bridge. Daytime events held in Fort Erie and across the Niagara River in Buffalo, New York, include free concerts, heritage art chalk walk competition and a spectacular fireworks display, which has been consistently rated one of the Top 10 in Canada. The fireworks, which begin at 10 p.m., aim at highlighting nearly 200 years of peace between our two nations and celebrate our two national holidays.
Just downriver from Fort Erie is another astounding display. The Niagara Falls are illuminated in a rainbow of colours at dusk every evening but on select nights — and July 1 and July 4 are two of them — you can bring the whole family to Queen Victoria Park for Fireworks Over the Falls. You can enjoy the show from riverside, from the famous Table Rock, Fallsview Casino or from your own private river-facing hotel suite. The show starts at 10 p.m.
Ontario Place is the place to be on Canada Day when you’re in Ontario’s capital city. The Canada fireworks by the lake, choreographed to music, can be seen from many vantage points along the city’s sprawling waterfront. The Toronto Islands offer an interesting perspective from across the harbour, as does one of the fireworks cruises on offer in the harbour. The fireworks start at 10:30 p.m.
MyNewWaterfrontHome.com — June 2011