Royal visit to Toronto

TORONTO [] — Prince Charles ventured through manure-infested mulch to greet unsuspecting fair-goers in his most intimate moments yet since arriving in Toronto for a three-day visit to Ontario. As accredited media, we followed the Royals all day.

The Royal couple, on their first visit as a married couple to Canada, officially opened the 2009 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair on Friday. Billed as the largest agricultural show in Canada, the fair features over one million square feet of space with eateries, animals, and educational areas for children.

The fair offered free admission up to 9:30 a.m. on Friday. Those who made it were treated to performances by The Canadian Cowgirls Precision Riding Team and Pony Club members prior to the entrance by Their Royal Highnesses.

Accompanied by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the Royal couple entered Ricoh Coliseum in a landau, a horse-drawn carriage. They circled twice to greet the thousands in attendance. Following opening remarks by the fair’s president, Gayle McPherson, Prince Charles opened the 2009 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. “Nothing could give me more pleasure than to declare the 87th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair officially open,” he said.

As with other visits during their tour, there were gifts.

McPherson’s grandson presented His Royal Highness with a basket of Canadian maple syrup and honey. Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, received a western saddle from McPherson’s granddaughter.

Following the opening ceremony, the royal couple separated to explore the fair and interact with royal watchers and camera-toting guests. “I had no idea he was coming, I am just here with my kids,” Christine Higgins said as Prince Charles entered the east concourse to meet with ordinary Canadians.

His Royal Highness made small talk and shook hands with ordinary fair-goers as RCMP and Royal Protection Officers nervously watched on. As he made his way throughout the fair, people with flowers and bags tried to offer them as gifts to the prince — gifts one RCMP officer said were not being accepted today.

Aside from some minor pushing a few feet from the prince, Prince Charles worked the crowd as only a down-to-earth royal could. Their Royal Highnesses then rendezvoused at the Ring of Excellence to present the championship ribbon to the supreme champion steer of the Queen’s 2008 Guinea’s beef cattle competition.

After signing an official guestbook, His Royal Highness made his way outside, shook a few hands and, for a brief moment, stood by the door of his Lincoln Town Car, as if to say he was sorry for leaving so soon. During that seldom-seen moment, Prince Charles seemed gratified.

As quickly as it came, the royal motorcade departed.

After a brief visit to the Evergreen Brickworks Facility, the royal motorcade arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport shortly after The Duchess of Cornwall.

Shortly before 2 p.m., Lt.-Gov. David Onley and other royal delegates escorted Their Royal Highnesses to their Canadian Forces Airbus plane. With a final wave, the royal visit to Ontario was over. As the aircraft pushed off from the tarmac, the Royal Standard and Canadian flag drifted through the brisk air.

On Thursday, the royal couple visited Varsity Stadium and presented new Colours to the Royal Regiment of Canada and the Toronto Scottish Regiment. A less than capacity crowd watched on as the ceremony took place.

Prince Charles serves as Colonel-in-Chief to both regiments.

“As you watch on with your new colours, please be aware of your Colonel-in-Chief’s undying interest and concern in all you do, but above all, the pride I feel being associated with two such special regiments,” the prince said.

“God bless and preserve you all,” he added.

Their Royal Highnesses’ continue their 11-day visit to Canada on Saturday in Victoria, B.C., they are set to depart for London on November 12.