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Royal couple's final day in Canada bit of Stampede, a bit of oil sands Add to ...

Will and Kate's final day in Canada was half cowboy, half oil sands.

The royal couple left Canada at 2 p.m. local time in a Canadian Forces jet that will take them to Los Angeles.

But before that, they spent their day officially launching the Calgary Stampede parade, and heading to an official Alberta government reception at a greenhouse in the Calgary Zoo to learn about oil sands technology.

At each event, fans lined up for hours just to catch a glimpse. Dozens of zoo employees and family were delighted when when they arrived at about 11:30 a.m. local time (1:30 p.m. ET), waving from their car.

Mackenzie Spinks, 11, and her four young siblings and cousins handed the Duchess flowers. "It was exciting," the girl said.

The family arrived two hours earlier to save a spot and kept one flower, a red daisy, for the Duke.

"Thank you, that's very nice. I never get the flowers," he told the family, some of whom live in Dubai and have returned home for the summer.

"This is lovely to kind of connect with Canadian culture," Mackenzie's mother, Jill Spinks, said. "I think it's fabulous for Alberta."

Margaret Ternan drove from Edmonton, three hours north, to the event at the zoo after her son, an employee of the facility, got tickets for the family.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Ms. Ternan said, shortly after shaking the Duke's hand. "They're personable, they're charismatic and they're very down to earth."

At the zoo, the Duchess wore a satin and wool scarlet Marianne coat-dress, by designer Catherine Walker, with The Queen's Maple Leaf brooch, one she wore on Canada Day.

Inside, they toured the greenhouse and met with provincial political leaders.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach announced the province would create an annual scholarship program in the couple's name, offering $2,000 annually to up to 25 students who overcome "significant challenges."

Earlier, at the Stampede, the Royals kicked off the annual tradition when, her hand atop his, they pressed a ceremonial red button, sending fireworks and confetti into the sunny morning skies as Canadian Forces fighter jets buzzed by.

The couple arrived at the parade starting point, Bow Valley College, after backtracking the parade route while waving from their car at hundreds of thousands of admirers.

Typical parade attendance is about 300,000, and was expected to be higher this year.

The Royals were greeted by Governor General David Johnston, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Prime Minister Stephen Harper (introduced to his hometown crowd as the “leader of the majority government”) and others. Will and Kate wore jeans and white cowboy hats, which were presented to them upon arrival in Calgary Thursday, with the Duchess adding a white Alice Temperley blouse. Some of their staff also donned Western attire.

Will and Kate stayed to watch the parade, waving at its participants and applauding Canadian Forces soldiers that marched by, followed by three armoured vehicles. The Royals didn't speak publicly.

Before they arrived, the crowd was given a quick primer in Royal etiquette on what some Calgarians call “First Friday,” effectively a civic holiday coinciding with Stampede's launch and the parade, which shuts much of the downtown core.

“When they sit, you sit,” parade host Dave Kelly, a local television personality, told the crowd. “Does it feel a bit different this year?”

When the Royal Couple arrived, they were greeted with a “yahoo.”

“Give them the best yahoo of their lives,” Mr. Kelly said.

This year's parade marshall was Rick Hansen, who praised the event's history.

“How you doing today? You guys having a good time?... I'd like to congratulate the City of Calgary for doing such an outstanding job on putting together such a world class event - the Calgary Stampede,” Mr. Hansen said, going on to praise the city's spirit.

“It's about what happens when you have a dream, when people work together and put it upon themselves to put on such a wonderful event.”

Before the parade, Mr. Kelly interviewed Mr. Harper's daughter, Rachel, asking what her favourite Stampede food was (mini-donuts) and whether, when her Prime Minister father is disappointed, he yells or goes silent. “I don't know what to say,” she said, as Mr. Harper smiled.

The Stampede lasts 10 days. Some British groups had objected to the Royals' presence at an event some consider cruel. Six horses died at last year's Stampede. This year's formats has made changes to improve animal welfare, particularly in chuckwagon racing, a sport the Duke briefly tried his hand at Thursday evening.

After seeing off the parade the Royals headed to a greenhouse at the Calgary Zoo to view demonstrations of technologies from the province's energy sector - carbon capture and storage, an unproven technology the province hopes will one day reduce its carbon emissions; a hydrocyclone separation process, used to extract crude oil from the thick, grainy bitumen of the province's oil sands; and new solar power cells from the province's tiny, fledgling renewable energy sector.

They then met with political dignitaries, including the Prime Minister, before climbing the stairs to the airplane door, waving to a crowd of several hundred gathered at a private hangar, and boarding.

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

 

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