By Mayor Sandra Easton
Special to newsnow
Meeting Royalty from any Monarchy is a once in a lifetime occasion and some of us from Lincoln found ourselves the welcome recipients of those special and exclusive invitations from the Dutch Embassy in Ottawa.
Floral business owners of Dutch ancestry, Lincoln’s major scientific and education community as it relates to food and horticulture markets, and those who were part of the security detail and the Mayor’s Office had the privilege of greeting and seeing King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands up front and personal.
The first contact from Mike and Neil Van Steekelenburg, the owners of CosMic Plants, was delivered to the Mayor’s Office on April 4,2015. “Save the Date” of May 28,2015 for High Tea with the King and Queen of the Netherlands. Later, an official invitation on behalf of Cees Kole, H.M. Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Canada was delivered by Registered Mail.
As the Mayor of the Town of Lincoln, it would be my duty along with Mike and Neil to greet the delegation from the Dutch Embassy in Washington and Ottawa as well as local Dutch Trade Mission Invitees. The highlight of the day would be the arrival of King Willem and Queen Maxima at approximately 2 pm via the QEW, along Reg. Rd. 81, north on Maple Grove Rd.
High Tea would be served and at Table #2, I sat with Mike and his wife, and the owners of Westbrook and Sunrise Greenhouses along with Queen Maxima and officials from the Embassies. When the Queen switched tables after 15 mins. or so we were joined by her Lady in Waiting and the conversation continued with the Growers.
As it turned out there was a delay coming out of Waterloo and they drove along QEW and south on Maple Grove Rd completely by-passing the great splashes of orange and the Dutch flags that were part of the public entourage of Dutch ancestors who had gathered near St, Helen’s Church where a few trees offered some welcome shade on a very bright, sunny, warm day.
A very proud day for all of Lincoln’s Dutch Community, Queen Maxima commented warmly on the public spectacle. After having met both the King and Queen I am certain they would have stopped and greeted the rural road reception with great enthusiasm if time had permitted.
All details were handled through the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. Mike and Neil invited me, MP Dean Allison, MP Tim Hudak about a week or so ahead for a tour of the approximately 50,000 sq. ft. green house and reviewed the general procedures for the day. On the day, it was quite a site to see massive banks of multiple coloured Phalaenopsis Orchids in all stages of development. Mike and Neil have successfully contributed to converting the Phalaenopsis Orchid market from an exclusive expensive purchase to a consumable available for anyone who loves orchids and loves colour in orchids.
The Official Invitation arrived by registered mail on April 28. Later, we were also sent a short primer on the appropriate protocol for arrival time and personal identification, suitable dress, appropriate salutation when addressing the Royals and advice that a curtsy or bow is not required. I was advised these are very down to earth people, close to their subjects; more like a friend or family member you treat with special consideration. No cameras – no pictures to be taken of the Royal couple. Only prior approved media would be in attendance. No gifts, no letters would be presented.
“Welcome to Lincoln, very pleased to meet you, Welcome on behalf of the Council of the Town of Lincoln.” Before the King and Queen arrived I circulated and met everyone who arrived and later positioned myself near the front entrance to greet the over 50 members of the Trade Mission Delegation from outside Lincoln. I wore the Chain of Office. They knew who I was and were very responsive to the Town’s greeting. When the king and Queen arrived I stood with Neil, Mike and Mike’s sweet daughter at the outside entrance to greet them.
Imagine, a white roll- up door and entrance to an industrial scale greenhouse completely transformed with two massive black urns about 5 ft. high and another 2 ft. or so of multiple outstanding white orchid blooms with a contrasting vibrant green encircling the leaves and base of the plants. It was a rich representation of only a small sample of what the floral and horticulture industry has to offer in Lincoln.
Beyond the pomp and circumstance, and the excitement and pride I felt when our Town was showcased by the international media, and beyond the serious enduring deep emotion and appreciation attached to the Dutch Liberation by Canadian soldiers 70 years ago, this visit represented an economic agenda for our local economy. One contract and an agreement were signed that would impact a small village of 17,000 in Quebec and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. This was a tangible example of Lincoln’s Economic Development Plan of which the concept of Lincoln as a Centre for Excellence in Agricultural was demonstrated in very tangible terms.
Partnerships in education, technology, science. The coming together of expert growers, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Lincoln, and matching experts from Holland is what being a Centre of Excellence is all about. An opportunity to share knowledge, skill and technology to grow and diversify markets, to expand food choices, to do this within a framework of being environmentally responsible and protecting hybrid seed varieties in this case Lettuce. Enriching best practise and all of the opportunities that model affords us and to do it within a longstanding cultural exchange of goodwill.
As I noted earlier, once the greetings and a plant tour were completed, we were served High Tea. It was nothing short of spectacular. Beautifully prepared and executed in the main Greenhouse against a massive bank of multi-coloured orchids. Exquisitely executed, you would think the Grand Oak was in the High Tea business everyday.
A number of local and national products were featured on the menu; RijkZwaan tomatoes, Canadian Smoked Salmon, Koorneef Cucumber, shortbreads with raspberry jelly, Maple leaf sugar cookies, Tigchelaar’s fresh strawberries. Beverages; sparkling Brut, unoaked Chardonnay, Elevation Cabernet and TEA.
Table #2 was my designated place with Queen Maxima, Growers from CosMic, Westbrook and Sunrise along with members of the Diplomatic Corp. Listening to Queen Maxima for those 15 mins. as she gently probed the history of the immigration of each family, the specifics of their growing operation and the scope of each market. Deep in all the discussions was the initial benefit of available land in Lincoln, the importance of family ties and the importance of theirs and our Town’s connection to Holland as well as the value of Horticulture to Lincoln’s economy.
Small detail of importance to some readers, “what did the Mayor wear on this occasion of a State Visit to Lincoln?” I am happy to say, I found with the help of an enterprising local store, a Canadian designed suit with a painted tulip design.
It couldn’t have been more perfect; Canadian, local and Dutch influenced.