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Police officers tour Parliament Hill on June 29, 2011 in advance of the royal visit and Canada Day festivities. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Police officers tour Parliament Hill on June 29, 2011 in advance of the royal visit and Canada Day festivities. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Royal Visit

Sunshine plus Will and Kate could equal a half-million on the Hill Add to ...

A mix of media hype, great weather and the fact Canada Day falls on a Friday could produce a record crowd this year of nearly half a million people to see Prince William and his wife, Catherine, on Parliament Hill.

The city is buzzing with last-minute preparations. Work crews are patching up potholes downtown, marching bands are warming up and a team of young chefs from across the country are in a prepping frenzy, shucking oysters and dicing veggies for the royal menu.

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Officials at the National Capital Commission are closely involved in the details and count crowds for the annual party that attracts tourists from across the country and around the world. Spokesperson Denise LeBlanc says it's possible the crowds this year could top 500,000 for the first time ever.

"The stars are aligning," she said, in reference to factors like media attention and the weather - forecast to be sunny and 27 degrees - that can combine to boost the crowd count.

Ms. LeBlanc's guess, which is all anyone can really offer when it comes to crowds, is based on the fact the record crowd size for Canada Day was 460,000 in 2008. Last year 370,000 people turned out on Canada day to see the Queen.

Media were invited into Rideau Hall's basement kitchen Wednesday morning, where executive chef Louis Charest is leading a team of about 35 young chefs from across the country.

Rideau Hall - where the William and Kate will stay while in Ottawa - is picking up on the couple's focus on youth as the overarching theme of the preparations.

They are working with ingredients from every corner of the country, including Qikiqtarjuaq sea urchin, Queen Charlotte Strait spot prawns, Winnipeg goldeye, PEI cloth-bound cheddar, Laurentian cattail, Acadian sturgeon caviar, Banks Island musk ox prosciutto, Alberta yak tenderloin, Millbank, Ont., chevre and Chatterbox Farm maple syrup.

On Thursday Prince William will speak publicly for the first time on his Canadian tour during an event at Rideau Hall with Governor-General David Johnston and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

That will be followed a "celebration of youth" reception, in which 100 young Canadians from across the country will be recognized for their accomplishments.

Follow on Twitter: @curryb

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