From tea and pastries to whale meat buffets, Canada's Diamond Jubilee celebrations

When Canadians mark the Queen's six decades on the throne, they'll be doing more than sipping tea and savouring sweet pastries. Ottawa is donating $2 million to a variety of community events.

Federal government set aside $2M to support community events

Jean Budden revels in her new new headgear after taking part in a fascinator workshop as part of Diamond Jubliee celebrations in Placentia, N.L. on May 29, 2012. (Wayne Power Jr. )

When Canadians mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year, they'll be doing more than sipping tea and savouring sweet pastries.

For sure, enjoying a cup of Earl Grey will be part of some community celebrations to honour Elizabeth's six decades on the throne.

But some events are scheduled to offer more diverse local fare — such as whale and reindeer meat — and to give Canadians the chance to do everything from making their own fascinator hats to appreciating art that reflects the country's cultural heritage.

Last weekend, for example, Flin Flon, Man., had a celebration that included a sold-out tea party, a performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, aboriginal drumming and even a procession through town by the local motorcycle club.

"I think we celebrated with style and we had a really wonderful community event," says Crystal Kolt, cultural co-ordinator for the Flin Flon Arts Council.

Participants were "proud to be Canadian," she said, "and there was a real sense of fellowship.

"From my understanding, that's what was hoped for with the Commonwealth with this particular celebration, above and beyond celebrating the Queen's 60 years."

The federal government, which has gone to some length to try to bolster Canadian ties to the monarchy, has set aside $2 million of its $7.5-million Diamond Jubilee program for local celebrations, which communities apply for.

Hotels ready to celebrate

It should come as no surprise that many Canadian hotels will mark the Diamond Jubilee.

After all, their names already suggest a historic tie or link to the monarchy.

The Le Méridien King Edward Hotel in Toronto will host a week of jubilee teas beginning June 1, and a jubilee brunch on June 3.

Executive chef Daniel Schick says this year's Diamond Jubilee efforts flow from the hotel's success last year with events around the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

"If you walk into the hotel, it sort of has the British feel to it and the monarchy feel to it and so I think it's a tradition," Schick says.

At the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, the jubilee celebration is going to the dogs — in a good way.

It will include a royal dog show and tea party.

"We’ve seen the Queen with her royal corgis and we thought it was sort of a fun family entertainment aspect of bringing that to the Royal Wedding celebrations last year," says Angela Rafuse-Tahir, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.

The Empress has hosted members of the Royal Family on numerous occasions, and the hotel's guests expect it to pay homage to British traditions.

"I think just the British influence in Victoria has a strong connotation to the people wanting us to participate in some of those events," says Rafuse-Tahir.

So far, $810,000 has been committed toward 170 events, Canadian Heritage says, with the average amount approved being about $4,700. Applications for a second funding cycle are being reviewed.

In England, jubilee celebrations reach their zenith over the weekend and into early next week, with a 1,000-boat Thames River pageant led by the Queen, street parties across the country, a concert at Buckingham Palace and a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral.

In Canada, the celebrations are more modest. And while they recognize the Queen with events you might expect to honour a long-reigning, 86-year-old monarch who lives in England, some of them are also focusing on local community spirit and heritage.

In the case of Flin Flon's celebration, more than 45 kilograms of pastries were flown an hour and a half north from Winnipeg, and tea party-goers sampled their fare off bone china that had been used when the Queen visited the provincial capital years ago.

"The place was packed [with] the most amazing, extraordinary fascinators, hats," says Kolt. "I was so impressed with how many people really got into it of all age groups, whether they were little girls or seniors. It was really kind of cute."

'Distinct artform'

The community also commissioned a piece by First Nations artist Theresa Wride that will be presented to the Queen after it has been displayed at the provincial legislature.

"Caribou hair tufting is such a distinct artform in our part of Canada and this one is absolutely spectacular," says Kolt.

The Flin Flon celebration received about $3,800 from Canadian Heritage.

For Kolt, who has worked tirelessly to encourage the arts in the North, the appearance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was particularly significant because of the impact it could have on the community.

"Flin Flon was the very, very first place the Royal Winnipeg Ballet had toured so many decades ago," she says.

"I wanted company members, the very best we could get, to show the northern audience, because I feel how can you form an opinion on an artform you've never seen before unless you see something that's truly the best."

A tip of the hat to the Queen

Justice O'Keefe, 3, takes a rest with mom Calystia Careen during a fascinator workshop in Placentia, N.L. (Rhonda Power)

In Placentia, N.L., about 20 women attended a fascinator workshop held this week as part of the town's efforts to mark the jubilee.

"It was great," says Rhonda Power, facilities manager for the town.

Workshop attendees turned feathers, buttons and bows into whimsical head adornments, and the town will give them a chance to don their creations at a jubilee afternoon tea party on June 24. Those celebrations received slightly more than $2,000 from Canadian Heritage.

Placentia likes to boast it has a few royal connections, Power said, noting that in the 1700s, Prince William Henry, later King William IV, stayed in the community. And a Placentia native, Sylvana Tomaselli, became a member of the Royal Family after her marriage in 1988 to the eldest son of the Duke of Kent, a first cousin of the Queen.

Changing it up a bit

Much further North (and West), the Northwest Territories community of Inuvik will mark the Diamond Jubilee with a community feast for 3,000 people on Labour Day weekend.

The celebration, which will also recognize the town's Order of Canada recipients, is based on what the community does for Aboriginal Day, "except that we're changing it up a bit so that we can also honour and give some credence to the Diamond Jubilee," says Tony Devlin, Inuvik's director of community services.

"It's relatively important because … Inuvik has seen a number of royal visits over the years so there's a connection to the monarchy here."

As well, Devlin suggests, that connection holds a special significance in the community.

"You find in Northern Canada some of the traditional aspects of Canadian life … they're held in high regard up here almost because of the lack of exposure of other things."

At the Inuvik celebration, there will be drums and dancers, Arctic Games demonstrations, and lots of food: caribou, whale and reindeer, along with turkey and other fare.

Inuvik received $9,900 from Canadian Heritage for its event.

Grassroots initiative

More than 200 people attended a tea held as part of Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Flin Flon, Man., on May 27, 2012. (Karen Mackinnon /Flin Flon Daily Reminder)

Canadian Heritage received 244 applications for the first funding cycle for community celebrations, which were for events between Feb. 4 and Aug. 31. So far, 170 have been approved.

The second funding cycle deadline was May 7 for events held between September and December, but Canadian Heritage says it is "premature" to provide any numbers regarding applications or approvals.

In the first cycle, the average amount requested was $13,000, while the average amount approved was $4,700.

Projects approved for funding included historic tours, family days, dances and musical performances, street parties and photo exhibits, with money going to groups such as community associations, seniors' clubs, heritage societies and municipalities.

Canadian Heritage says the government wanted to ensure the Diamond Jubilee celebration in Canada was a grassroots initiative.

"Providing funding to small groups and organizations who know best what will resonate in their own communities was considered the best way to ensure a pan-Canadian approach," Geneviève Myre, a media relations adviser for Canadian Heritage, wrote in an email.