November 9, 2009

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

November 6, 2009

The opening ceremonies of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair were extra special because His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prince of Wales accompanied by his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, officiated this year while on their tour of Canada.

I registered online as Media for the event because I figured the security would be high, but I never heard back from them. The listings said that Media would be allowed in at 8 am, and the general public would be let in at 8:30. I figured the ceremonies would be starting shortly after that. So I got up at 5 in the morning after a sleepless night to catch the 6:30 train to get to the Exhibition Place by 8 am.

When I arrive I signed in and picked up my press pass from the Media room, but nobody checked who I was. I asked 5 or 6 RAWF staff but no one seemed to know what the schedule was. No one knew at which end the opening ceremony was going to be held in the Ricoh Coliseum. I met another photographer, Linda Dawn Hammond, in the same situation and together we found Kate Walsh who showed us where the reserved Media seats were. Turns out we were B-listers and would not be getting access to the floor of the coliseum to get close ups of the Royal couple. Someone from the A-list press, who was allowed to know the agenda, informed us that the Royal couple would not be coming out until 10:25.

So I spent the next 2 hours exploring the arena and photographing people like these two nice Mounties.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

I also learned where the Landau assigned to carry the Royal couple would be waiting for them to arrive. After the ceremony starts I headed back to wait for the Royal couple myself.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Down the hall past the Toronto Marlies dressing rooms and into a larger corridor, there was waiting the Landau. A burley stage manager was busy orchestrating all the acts that preceded the Royal couple.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

They arrived through a back entrance, mounted the Landau and through they went.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

If the lighting had been brighter the pictures would have been better, but still they were better than I would get in the coliseum.

I went back to my seat to watch the ceremonies and see if I could get any better pictures. Shortly after it ended, Linda grabbed me and said, “I know where they are going! Follow Her!”

Like maniacs, about 15 photographers and I chased after a RAWF Media rep. across the Direct Energy Centre and into a pen where cattle were being judged and photographed. Somehow we had made it in with the A-listers.

At that point someone said that the Prince was being photographed at the giant pumpkins. Someone else said that one of his colleagues had a photo of the Prince smelling a carrot.

I looked at Linda. “Linda, didn't you want to get a photo of the Prince with the organic produce?” We had missed that opportunity. I personally wanted to get a photo of the Prince with anything garden related for obvious reasons.

I figured that I had missed out and told the RAWF Media rep that I was going to leave and photograph the rest of the show. She looked at me sternly and said, “You are forbidden to leave!” I didn't argue.

I then ran into Kate Walsh again and decided to photograph her.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

I also photographed Linda with Kyle and Alex Dafoe who came all the way from Quebec to show their cattle. It's always nice to meet great kids with nice manners.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Before long the Royal couple arrived to present an award, but I think the real stars of the show are Tiffany's legs.

This photo is incredible. (View the full photo.)

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

After this we sort of became part of the Prince's entourage. The security people actually kept us close to Prince Charles and separate from the rest of the crowd. You can see Linda ↓ and her camera right behind the Prince. Linda managed to get some spectacular photos of the Royal visit.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

After the Prince departed from the show, I found Michelle Dunn (with the camera) and Tiffany at the entrance of the Direct Energy Building. I asked if I could take their picture. Tiffany said, “Hurry Up! Take the picture NOW! There's someplace I have to be.”

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

I don't like being spoken to in such a way but I thought to myself, “Thanks for the quote!”

For a delightful change of pace I run into amiable weatherman Anwar Knight and his friend Kenzie Broddy. (Follow Anwar on twitter.)

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

I make my way over to the Canada Blooms booth and to my surprise I run into Camilla once again.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

I jump into the booth and try to get a photo of Gilles Bouchard with the Duchess in the background but instead end up entertaining a happy camerawoman.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Later on Gilles and Gerry Ginsberg showed me the new floor plan for Canada Blooms. Canada Blooms 2010 will be held at the Direct Energy Centre for the first time. It shouldn't be missed.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

When Royal Agricultural Winter Fair attendees are asked if they attend other shows, most say that they also attend Canada Blooms and vice versa. There was plenty for the average gardener to see and enjoy at the Royal. Here you can see two booths, one with pruners and one with sprinklers.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

You can marvel at the giant pumpkins. The largest this year was 1241.6 lbs.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

There were unusual vegetables to see like this freaky carrot grown by Howard Tizzard of Bradford, Ontario.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

You could also see new vegetable varieties such as this green 'Gitano' cauliflower type.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

There are always decorative sheaves of wheat and other grains.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

For the ecologically minded there was a house made with as many renewable soy products as possible.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

There are always lots of local products to choose from if you get hungry. As is my tradition, I ended my trip to the Royal with an Ontario lamb burger.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

If you are hosting a garden related event in the GTA and would like it covered in gardentoronto.ca or would like to place an e-poster about it on our Events Calendar, just contact me. I am always delighted to promote anything gardening in Toronto.

Mark Disero

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