Royal rapture visits Cambridge

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2014
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Flurry of activity as Cambridge readies Kate's special Waikato Hospice mission It will pay to be early to get glimpse of a prince

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A sea of Union Jack flags and banners will greet William and Catherine today as they visit the Waikato town that bears their title.

Cambridge has been buzzing with excitement and activity for weeks ahead of the visit. The town of trees is packed to bursting point and in between showers of rain yesterday frantic last-minute preparations were under way.

On the streets and in the cafes and shops there was only one topic of conversation: the royals.

Tens of thousands are likely to throng the streets today looking for that perfect vantage point - or better still that special personal encounter with either William or Kate.

The first to arrive was Hamilton's Cathy Bazley - so keen to catch a glimpse of the royals she arrived at the town hall at midday yesterday, and camped overnight under a marquee wrapped in six layers of clothing.

The 63-year-old said it was genealogical links that drew her.

Bazley, a former midwife, said her family had royal connections going back to the 11th century and she had seen strong similarities between her children and Prince William and his son, Prince George. "I might just go and see what they're like in person. I've always wanted to".

Managing preparations for an official royal visit sounds like a gargantuan challenge that would have most people tearing their hair out, yet Wayne Green seems to be having the time of his life.

The Waipa District Council community relationships manager was happy in his work yesterday, as he and his colleagues were getting ready for the town's two special guests.

How many visitors to prepare for was the big question.

"We were tentatively told there would be around 5000 to 15,000 people. The other day we were watching the news on TV3 and they came up with the figure of 50,000. Who knows how many we'll get on the day," he said.

Two big-screen television screens are being installed to give those unable to get up close and personal with the royal couple a better view of them.

A special stage was also being set up for the 80 accredited media representatives, near the cenotaph where William and Kate will lay a wreath, accompanied by French ambassador Laurent Contini.

The royal couple will certainly feel at home when they arrive in the town that bears their title. Thousands of Union Jack flags and banners adorn every street in the Cambridge town centre.

The interior and window display areas of Colonial Heritage Antiques were a sea of flags that the royal couple will have a hard time missing.

The royal motorcade is to pass right by the store on its way to the town hall engagement and owners Ken and Beverley Sheldrick will have a prime view.

"We'll certainly be able to get a glimpse," Ken said. "Who knows? Their car might break down right outside and we'll get a whole lot more than that."

It's not just central Cambridge that has been caught in the grip of royal fever. In the Avanti Velodrome they were rolling out the red carpet when the Waikato Times arrived last night.

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Home of Cycling chief executive Geoff Balme was taking the frantic preparations in the brand new facility in his stride.

Balme is a veteran of numerous Olympic campaigns, where he has worked as a volunteer, so hosting a visit by the future king and queen of England and 2000 others was not an insurmountable challenge.

The duke would officially open the $28.5 million facility at the event.

"It's going to be a three-hour cycling extravaganza. William and Kate are going to be a small but very important part of the overall day. It will be something special."

Meanwhile, the fun had already started last night at Rainbow Place in Hamilton, which has been transformed into a magical wonderland of entertainment that was last night being given a trial run by the children of Hospice Waikato's staff.

Chief executive Craig Tamblyn said all that remained was for the weather to play its part today.

"And will the sun shine on us? Of course it will."

- Waikato Times

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