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Queen to cut birthday cake, view giant spiders during visit to Alberta

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Queen to cut birthday cake, view giant spiders during visit to Alberta

Sun May 22, 2005


JASPER, A lta. (CP) - Officials at the Provincial Museum in Edmonton have been assured by Buckingham Palace that the Queen is not afraid of spiders - even very large spiders.

After being greeted by close to 1,000 people outside a small Jasper, Alta. church on Sunday, the Queen will officially kick off the Alberta leg of her Canadian tour this week with unconventional events that include cutting a giant birthday cake in a sports stadium on Monday and viewing bugs at the Provincial Museum on Tuesday.

"We'll even have our live-bug expert - he'll be showing the queen these giant spiders," laughed Tim Willis, the museum's assistant director.

"Apparently, she's fine with that," he quickly added.

The royal couple resume their tour duties Monday after spending Saturday and Sunday relaxing during private time in Jasper.

It was anything but quiet when hundreds of people waited in near-freezing temperatures outside a small Anglican church in Jasper to catch a glimpse of the queen as she and Prince Philip headed into a Sunday morning service.

"She's beautiful, she's beautiful," exclaimed Terry Netherton, a local nurse, as the Queen walked by.

The church was only able to hold 125 people, so special tickets were allocated in advance to parishioners of various Jasper churches.

Tom Wright of Jasper managed to secure one of the prized purple tickets for himself as well as his sister, Sandy Wright of Maple Ridge, B.C., who was in town for Tom's 58th birthday.

For Sandy, who said she travels to Jasper for her brother's birthday every year, the ticket was a thrilling treat.

"I've been a Queen follower since I was a little girl. I still have all my scrapbooks from before she was the Queen when she was a little girl. She has been my idol my whole life," Sandy Wright said.

An RCMP dog was led through the church early Sunday morning, checking for anything amiss. Following the service, officers struggled to contain eight or nine young girls who were hoping to present flowers to the Queen.

One toddler, who was among the girls police had corralled, prompted laughter from the crowd when she lay down on the pavement as the Queen approached.

"She was going for a beetle and she dropped her flowers. It was pretty funny," explained Tannis Potter, 7, who also presented flowers to the Queen.

Prince Philip also found the toddler's actions amusing, wondering aloud if the child's parents were watching.

"Anyone claim that?" he asked, smiling.

The Queen will cut a massive birthday cake and watch 1,500 singers, dancers and musicians in front of an estimated 50,000 people Monday at a Centennial celebration at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.

The show will feature a wide variety of performers, including Ian Tyson and Tommy Banks, hip-hop and Ukrainian dancers and a 21-gun salute.

The Queen is to re-dedicate the Provincial Museum at a splashy if unusual party on Tuesday that will include the facility's exotic insect display.

For the first time, the monarch will take the throne at the Alberta legislature to make a speech Tuesday and will tour the manicured grounds perched above the North Saskatchewan River.

Staff have been pruning, weeding, polishing and painting for days, said Gary Mar, the minister responsible for Alberta's Centennial celebrations.

"I think her Majesty the Queen must think the entire world smells like fresh paint," quipped Mar.

Published reports also say Premier Ralph Klein will re-name Highway 2 between Calgary and Edmonton in honour of the Queen. The reports say "Queen Elizabeth II Highway" signs are ready to be put up as soon as the announcement is made at a government-hosted dinner honouring the Queen and Prince Philip on Monday night.

The Queen is scheduled to do a walkabout in downtown Edmonton on Wednesday before travelling to Calgary, where she'll tour the Museum of the Regiments and attend a western-style pageant at the city's giant hockey arena, the Pengrowth Saddledome.

The Queen and Prince Philip are scheduled to return to England on Wednesday.

Further Reading:

Strange Brew - Work halted as giant venomous spiders thought to have been extinct for thousands of years discovered underneath Windsor Castle

Travelling Men - Fraternal Associations