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Party fit for a queen

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 15, 2012

Somba K'e Civic Plaza was awash with community members as young and old, coloured with flowery hats and fashion-forward fascinators, congregated to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee and enjoy some music on the shore of Frame Lake.

NNSL photo/graphic

Cassidy Comeau, left, and Jennifer Simle proudly wear their fascinators at the city's garden party, which celebrated Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee at Somba K'e Civic Plaza Tuesday evening. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photos

The City of Yellowknife organized Tuesday's event as one of its weekly garden parties taking place this month. The event was partly funded by the GNWT and the Monarchist League of Canada - which acquired money from the Department of Canadian Heritage to put on diamond jubilee celebrations to spread education of the occasion and the monarchy in general.

"It's just a way for Canadians to say thank you for 60 years," said Ben Hendriksen, the Northern representative for the Monarchist League of Canada.

The Queen is only the second in the monarchy's history to reach her diamond jubilee - 60 years since her ascension to the throne - with Queen Victoria celebrating hers in 1897.

The celebrations for the Commonwealth started on Feb. 6 and will continue throughout the year.

Yellowknifers welcomed themselves to diamond jubilee pins, flags and postcards as they signed a book of congratulations to Queen Elizabeth II that will be sent to her at the end of the year by the Canadian government.

George Tuccaro, commissioner of the Northwest Territories, welcomed the crowd of more than 200 people outside city hall which has raised its own flag in honour of the diamond jubilee.

"She's the Queen of Canada and we're very proud of that. She's dedicated to the people she served for 60 years," he said.

Tuccaro met Queen Elizabeth II two years ago when he took on the role as commissioner in Ottawa. Last year, Yellowknife got a huge taste of royalty as Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge visited the city on their official tour of Canada.

"We're pretty much deep into royalty here in the Northwest Territories. We can't just celebrate when they're here, you have to do it when they're not here," said Tuccaro. "When royalty comes to Canada, they want to come to the NWT. They have a special affection for the NWT. And people of the NWT have got to know them quite well too."

Queen Elizabeth II has visited the NWT twice, once in 1970 and again in 1994.

Erin Thompson was 13 years old when the queen visited the capital in 1994. She remembers watching the poised woman walk toward her from the steps of city hall where she was singing with a children's choir for the event.

"The choir was lined up on the steps of city hall. It was all barricaded off. She was just coming out of church. They came out and they were doing the shaking-hand thing. We were singing O Canada. I remember that for sure," she said. "She was right there. I was in the second row."

Fast forward 18 years and the excitement is still strong. Women and young girls paraded around Somba K'e Civic Plaza donning fascinators that they brought or made on site at Janet Dean's table of crafts.

"The fascinators are a replacement for a hat," said Dean, who explained it was in fact Queen Elizabeth II who inspired the modern-day revival of the headpieces.

"She realized she was losing touch by having all these formal events where people had to wear formal hats. So she said instead of the hat, we'll let the young people wear something different and they're modified hats."

In between the musical sets of the Aurora Fiddlers and The Committed, about 10 contestants took to the stage for the fascinator fashion show with Frame Lake as a backdrop. Five-year-old Nico Morin took top honours for her bright yellow headpiece.

The celebrations don't stop here. The GNWT is putting on events all summer long. There is a community barbecue celebrating the royal milestone on Saturday at Somba K'e Civic Plaza, the theme of this year's Canada Day parade is the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and there are many community teas being organized throughout the territory.

The federal government is also recognizing 60,000 Canadians for their outstanding contributions with commemorative medals.

The NWT has been allocated a number of Diamond Jubilee Medals and the public is invited to nominate NWT residents.

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