Editor’s note: This is a reposting of an article originally published on April 10, 2021, following the passing of Prince Philip. Alyssa Currie is no longer the Executive Director of the South Peace Regional Archives.
While the hospital bearing the name of Queen Elizabeth II has stood in Grande Prairie for nearly 40 years, the impact both her Royal Highness and the Duke of Edinburgh made on Grande Prairie started in the late 1970s. It was August of 1978 when the Royals took a slingshot two-week trip through the province. While it was based around the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, both members of the Windsor family made quite an impression on the Swan City.
Former South Peace Regional Archives Director Alyssa Currie says while taking part in the ceremonial sod turning for the then-new hospital may have been the main event for the Royal Family in Grande Prairie, it’s not even close to the whole story.
“We have a few references in [Daily Herald Tribune] clippings to him being in high spirits, joking with spectators about setting aside the motorcade vehicles and creating a race,” she laughs.
“He also had a fun interaction with a local singer where he imitated playing the guitar, and she was delighted to have that interaction with him,” she adds.
Currie notes the chartered flight for the Royal Family turned out to be about 20 minutes later than expected, but their schedule remained intact after both reportedly had the desire to stay an extra 25 minutes to make sure they could greet as many people as possible.
“Over 10,000 people gathered to greet them, including 3,000 people at the airport when they arrived,” says Currie.
“It was a great opportunity for them in an otherwise very busy tour to take two and half hours to just meet a great community.”
Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, 2022 at the age of 96.