William and Kate wrap Canadian visit today with stacked schedule in Calgary
CALGARY - Prince William and his wife Kate are making the most of their last day in Canada, with plans to pack a number of events into just a few hours.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will start the day by travelling the Calgary Stampede parade route in reverse by car. That journey will take them to Bow Valley College where they'll officially launch the festivities and take in the spectacle.
The world-famous Stampede is a 10-day exhibition and rodeo that celebrates the western way of life. Today's two-hour parade is considered the second largest in the world and this year's royal presence is expected to draw large, enthusiastic crowds.
Later, the royals will make their way to the Calgary Zoo where they'll tour environmental preservation displays. They'll also have a private meeting with homeless youth and attend an Alberta government reception.
A provincial scholarship, created in honour of the royal couple's visit, is also expected to be announced.
Then it's off to the Rotary Challenger Park where the royals will lay a wreath. The park is a barrier-free recreational facility where people with disabilities can play alongside their able-bodied peers.
By early afternoon it will be time for fond farewells as William and Kate will head to the airport to take off for Los Angeles.
The royal couple has captivated crowds in all the communities they've visited on their first official tour and Calgary has been no exception.
The pair arrived at the last stop on the nine-day royal visit yesterday evening and elicited an outpouring of warmth when they fulfilled the wish of a sick little girl just minutes after touching down in the city.
William and Kate drew some initial grumbles when they appeared to pass on a decades-old tradition of donning special white cowboy hats that are Calgary's equivalent of the keys to the city. But in the midst of strong winds, they held the hats in their hands and focused their attention instead on Diamond Marshall, a six-year-old with Stage 4 undifferentiated sarcoma.
The youngster's biggest wish was to one day meet a "real princess." She had written Kate a note from the hospital bed where she watched the royal wedding earlier this year, and the Children's Wish Foundation went to work.
A shy Diamond and a gentle Kate exchanged a few words and ended their conversation on the airport tarmac with a hug.
"She was beautiful," an enthralled Diamond later told reporters.
The royal couple delighted their fans further when they appeared wearing jeans, button-down shirts and the famous white Smithbilt hats later in the evening at rodeo demonstration events.
The white-hatting ceremony representing the city's cowboy culture and pioneering past has been celebrated by dignitaries ranging from the Dalai Lama to Dr. Phil.
Those custom-made hats came up in a speech by William at a dinner with dignitaries last night with the prince taking a good-natured poke at the headgear beef that marked his arrival in the city.
He then turned serious by saying that over the course of their tour, he and his wife had a Canadian experience which had exceeded all their expectations.
"Canada has far surpassed all that we were promised," he said. "Our promise to Canada is that we shall return."