Cambridges to touch down

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 12:41 04/03/2014
Barry Mason
Emma Allen

Royal welcome: Bethsaida Retirement Village residents Barry Mason, 80, and Jean Riley, 79, toast the Royals at the Princess Diana memorial seat in Blenheim's Seymour Square

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Getting ready: Jane Orphan is dusting off the displays at Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre before the Royal visit
Seymour Square
A large turnout is expected at Seymour Square
Queen Elizabeth
The Marlborough Express
The Queen Mother in Pollard Park, Blenheim during her visit in 1958

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A whistlestop royal tour of Blenheim will be a mix of ceremony and a relaxed Marlburian welcome.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Seymour Square and visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre during their visit on April 10. The tour has been months in the planning.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said it was difficult keeping Blenheim's best-kept secret.

"A scoping team came to Marlborough late last year and had a walk around Seymour Square, the clock tower and Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre," he said.

"We were sworn to secrecy. It was hard for me to keep this secret and even harder for my wife. Only four or five people knew about it."

Representatives from the Department of Internal Affairs visited Blenheim yesterday to look at security detail.

Mr Sowman said he was honoured the royals had chosen Blenheim as part of their trip.

"Seymour Square gardens are at their best - bright and blooming - and our war memorial clock tower is a bit of an icon, so I look forward to seeing that all as the backdrop of the televised coverage of this visit," Mr Sowman said.

"The visit by the duke and duchess is huge for small town like Blenheim. Lets hope we will bring a sunny Marlburian welcome on the day."

The duke and duchess will fly into Blenheim's Base Woodbourne on a Royal New Zealand air force plane on the morning of April 10. Their first engagement will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial at Seymour Square, where they will be greeted by the mayor and mayoress.

Marlborough Returned and Services' Association president John Forrest hoped 100 veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Malay and other conflicts right through to Afghanistan, would attend.

"Certain veterans will get to meet the royal couple. It will be decided over the coming weeks who is fit and able. All we have to do is turn up, sit down and look pretty."

The ceremony will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, and will remember the fallen from previous conflicts.

Marlborough District Council confirmed the ceremony would take place in the morning and would incorporate a minute's silence at 11am. A bugle player will play the last post while Blenheim Municipal Band will perform the British national anthem.

After the ceremony the public will have the opportunity to meet the royal couple.

The ceremony will be metres away from a bench seat on the southern wall of the park dedicated to the duke's mother, Princess Diana, after her death in 1997. Mr Sowman said logistics around whether Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge would stop at the seat were being worked out.

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The couple will be taken on a one-hour tour of Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre by film-maker Sir Peter Jackson. Their visit corresponds with the museum's popular flying day. It has not been confirmed whether the public will have an opportunity to meet the royals at the event.

A private lunch is believed to be set for a winery near the heritage centre. No doubt Marlborough will deliver on its gourmet reputation and they will enjoy a glass of its world-class sauvignon blanc.

The duke and duchess will then leave Base Woodbourne to fly to Wellington for a state reception at Government House and unveil a portrait of the Queen.

Blenheim's Jean Rile, 79, has met her fair share of royalty and hopes to see the new generation.

"I have met the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles. We have had a few blaggards in the royal family but I am a royal fan," she said.

Barry Mason, 80, said he believed crowds would show up.

"When you look down through history they have always shown strong leadership. I would like to come and see them. Blenheim people have always been supporters of the royal family."

Bethsaida Retirement Village diversional therapist Lorraine Davis said they would take residents along if it was accessible to the elderly.

- The Marlborough Express

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