Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

Real People. Real Jobs. Real Adventures.

Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Hanging with Liz...

Posted 2/09/21 (Tue)

Because I listen to Canadian radio a lot, I found out that Queen Elizabeth was coming to Regina so I quietly applied for press credentials through the British Consulate in Ottawa.

Thinking that it was a shot in the dark, I never thought a small-town reporter like myself would get a pass to see the queen. But in two days, a man with a heavy French accent called from the consulate to tell me my credentials and itinerary were coming in the mail.

I was shocked but hey, this is my job so I’m going to make the best of it.

The day was May 19, 2005 and Queen Elizabeth was scheduled to officially open the Saskatchewan Centennial celebration at the provincial capitol in Regina.

And having gone to numerous Saskatchewan Roughrider football games over the years in Regina, getting to the capitol was a no-brainer.

But I thought about something that made a lot of sense then and still does. I decided to get there grossly early because, as an American, I was not allowed in the media pool. That was reserved for Canadian and British journalists.

As a result, I took my camera and notebook and got positioned as far forward as I could get to the stage; right up against the barricades in front of the provincial capitol steps.

There was a light rain and it drizzled for the entire three hours I was early, but in effect, I got the best spot because as it got closer to the opening, people started filling in beside me and behind me.

By the time the event was ready to begin, there were approximately 30,000 people there, a number the Regina Leader-Post grossly underestimated.

The way this thing started out, Premier Lorne Calvert (equivalent to governor) welcomed everyone to Regina, said a few words and turned the microphone over to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The prime minister spoke for a short time and he welcomed the queen to Canada and to Saskatchewan.

Her Royal Highness joined the premier and prime minister on stage and I happened to be close enough to get a photo of all three of them on the same stage at the same time.

That is something that would never happen today because of security. The photo wasn’t the greatest, but it’s proof they were all together on that stage.

After the queen made her remarks, she and Prince Philip took a walk “among the people.” In other words, there was a path leading away from the capitol steps and into a garden of sorts with native plants and trees.

Somewhere in that garden, the path made a U-turn and the royal couple turned around to go back to the podium.

That’s where my grossly early idea came in handy. Not only was I as close to the steps as I could get, but I was right next to the path and Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip walked right past me. They were so close I could have reached out and tapped her on the shoulder, and may have been arrested.

I did, however, take a number of photographs, which I found out later violated British protocol because you are not supposed to be within 20 feet when you photograph the queen.

She probably thought I was the Canadian paparazzi or something. Little did anyone in that crowd know that I was an American reporter.

That’s another oddity of the day. The Regina Leader-Post found out I was the lone American journalist at the event and reporter Will Chabun later interviewed me.

Regardless, it was a work day, and in some cases I wish it wasn’t so I could have had some time to absorb more of the pageantry.

But I had to get back to Minot and get a story filed. First, I had to get out of the city of Regina with all those extra people and second, it was usually a 20-minute wait to get through the border at Portal.

Despite that, on the entire 250-mile trip back to Minot, I didn’t turn on the radio and just tried writing an article in my head because I knew by the time I reached my desk, deadline was going to be dangerously close.

I got to my desk an hour and 10 minutes before deadline and I had a major story written in an hour, giving me 10 minutes to spare.

My protocol violating photograph and article went to press and the first thing that happened the next morning when I got to work, was the phone rang.

It was Early Pomeroy. He said he didn’t know the queen was going to be in Regina. Apparently, neither did anybody else on the American side. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.