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The day the Queen came to Castlegar

Queen Elizabeth II made one visit to the West Kootenay, which came as part of celebrations marking the centennial of B.C.’s entry into confederation.

Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and Princess Anne toured 22 communities in the province, and their itinerary for May 5, 1971 included a stop at Selkirk College in Castlegar.

But when the day arrived something threatened to cancel the visit, or at least make it unpleasant: a steady drizzle.

Master of ceremonies Dick Wayling told the assembled crowd to “think sunshine” — and they cheered as an Armed Forces Cosmopolitan airplane broke through the thick cloud at precisely 4 p.m.

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Five thousand people greeted the Queen at the airport, the Trail Times wrote, with a roar audible from the college.

Dignitaries on hand included MLAs Don Brothers and Burt Campbell, MP Ran Harding and former MP Bert Herridge, centennial committee chair Bob Lightle, airport committee members Ralph West and Sam Muirhead, and 17 local mayors.

Along a route lined with 2,000 girl guides and boy scouts, the 16-car royal motorcade made its way slowly to the college. A nine-meter walkway was cordoned off leading to the doorstep of the main building, and the Royal Family shook hands and chatted with people along the way.

The Queen wore a blue coat and sailor hat, while Princess Anne was dressed in a deep yellow suit. Both carried black umbrellas.

Local students were given the day off the school to attend. Bands from Nelson and Trail played, and a 105-member Doukhobor choir made up mostly of Stanley Humphries students performed under the direction of Peter Samoyloff. The choir presented a miniature spinning wheel to the Queen, handmade ladles to Prince Phillip, and a shawl to Princess Anne.

During a walkabout, the Royal Family mingled with members of the 54th Kootenay Battalion, the IODE, and Nordic Lodge among others.

The Queen also signed the college’s guest register, and she and Princess Anne were presented with bouquets by two local children.

College board chair Frank Beinder said Prince Phillip was disappointed he didn’t get to tour the college, and asked many questions about it.

The Queen, Beinder said, was “so charming, so gracious, so motivated, very easy to talk to … she was most interested in talking to the youngsters and asked where they were from and how far they had travelled.”

The visit concluded after 55 minutes.

“Queen wins people’s hearts,” said a Castlegar News headline.

“I’m glad we came,” a woman from Nelson told the Trail Times. “We’ve been here since this morning. We were surprised when the Queen walked by the crowds and stopped to speak to people. We were almost standing next to her. We thought she’d just go to the dignitaries.”

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