Princess Anne marks first Royal visit to Barrie in more than a century
Ashley Logan spent the last two weeks learning to curtsey while pretending to present flowers to a real princess.
Dressed in a bright red coat, the six-year-old Hewitt's Creek Public School student was chosen to offer a bouquet of flowers to Princess Anne upon her arrival in Barrie, Tuesday afternoon.
“She said, 'Are those flowers for me?',” Logan whispered shyly after the presentation. “And then she said, 'They're so pretty'. But I forgot to curtsey.”
Logan smiled up at her mother, Sherrie, who beamed adding she, too, was a little in awe meeting a princess.
Four years ago, when Ashley was just two, she underwent a liver transplant at Toronto Sick Children's Hospital.
Once she was on the road to recovery, they started the Ashley's Angels organization to raise money and awareness about organ donation.
“To think that at one point, she was dying in my arms,” Sherrie's eyes watered briefly at the memory. “We've come such a long, long way to get to where we are.
"We're here and we're thrilled and a little humbled by all of this.”
Logan's memory of the gracious princess was echoed by many of the people who met her.
The Princess Royal arrived at the Southshore Centre shortly after 3 p.m.
The approximately 200 people waiting in the frigid wind for a view of royalty, cheered as she exited the black limousine, wearing a warm, camel-coloured coat buttoned up to the neck, warm black boots and gloves.
As the colonel-in-chief of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters regiment, Princess Anne inspected the troops on parade in the parking lot, as well as the Pipe and Drums Band, who stoically wore their traditional kilts and tunics on the blustery afternoon.
Emma Seed-Binnie, 14, and her friend Kaitlyn Armstrong,14, had travelled from Fenelon Falls to catch a glimpse of royalty, holding bouquets of flowers they'd brought for the princess.
“It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Seed-Binnie said. “We may never experience this again.”
After inspecting the troops, Mayor Jeff Lehman escorted Princess Anne to the east side of the Southshore Centre, where she helped unveil and dedicate the granite benches that are the first elements of the Military Heritage Park expected to be built on that land in the coming years.
The Princess Royal did not do a walk-about to meet the crowd at the fences on the lawn, nor did she speak publicly.
After meeting with Ashley and her mother, Lehman directed Princess Anne into the centre where she met with more than 100 local dignitaries gathered inside.
Former Barrie mayor Janice Laking said the princess seemed to thoroughly enjoy her visit.
“She came around and talked to everybody at great length,” Laking said after the reception.
Laking said she talked to the princess about meeting her parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip while watching her in the equestrian event in the Montreal Olympics in the 1970s.
“It was wonderful. She was really down to earth. Nobody curtsied, she had her hand out to shake right away. It was pretty special.”
Bob Abercrombie, a senior member of the Rotary Club of Barrie, said he and former member, the late Arch Brown, talked about creating a military park to highlight Barrie's partnership with Canadian Forces Base Borden, and to honour the many soldiers from the Barrie area who died in combat.
Almost a decade later, with the city coming on board to commit to the military park, Abercrombie said he had a wonderful conversation with the Princess Royal about the park plans, designs and concepts.
“She was not what any of us were expecting,” he said after the reception. “She was teasing me about the park and was really very entertaining. She made everyone feel very special and really seemed to enjoy herself.”
By the time she left the Southshore Centre for a reception of the Barrie Armoury, all but a small handful of the crowd had dispersed.
Carmen Vair, 72, and her sister June Allan, 74, were wrapped up warmly waiting for a glimpse of the Princess Royal.
Vair had brought a photo of their father, Arthur Gable, who'd been in tanks corps of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters during the Second World War to show Princess Anne in case she came to meet her well-wishers.
“We've always been fans of the Royal Family,” Vair said. “Our grandparents used to make a scrapbook of every Royal visit. I guess it just runs in the family.”