The Dutch Anniversary event was a good one, all sunny skies and broad smiles filling the Markt Square. The Royal Bus delivered the entourage at midafternoon beneath the gantry’d gaze of Dutch televising, relayed to a jumbo screen along the perimeter of the Square. For most of the ceremony, it seemed that the crowd had it’s back to the event, preferring the grainy images on the Big Screen.
There was a brief signing ceremony in the City Hall, then everyone took their seats for the fashion show and musical performances. It was hard to see much: the Royals were seated well down in the Orange Box Seats. Maxima was easiest to spot beneath her enormous hat, King Willem-Alexander, similarly, beneath his big-handed wave to the crowd.
A presentation coach once advised me to watch how professional politicians give a speech, the way they use their hands and gaze, how they switch from factual to personal modes of connecting.
There is similarly an art to working a receiving line and a crowd: Does each person’s anticipation yield to satisfaction, had how is the trick turned? It’s a study of how the King pauses, smiles, makes a remark, shakes hands, moves on.
Of course, as king, he is shielded by protocol and security. There will be few hostile encounters, nobody in line who wouldn’t be elevated by their moment alongside royalty. Unlike a politician facing a mixed crowd, the King is assured of friendly passage, he likely becomes more panda than panther within that bubble.
The pageant continued, twirling gowns and singing schoolchildren behind layered rows of security watching the crowd’s every movement.
A few signs advocated abolishment of the monarchy, and a burst of red, white, and blue streamers tangled on the speaker system, but otherwise the event was postcard perfect.
I have to admit that I was wrong about the military vehicles arrayed along Kesselskade. They were part of an armed forces exhibition put on in conjunction with event, evident when children started crawling over the troop carriers and a specialist showed off the gyrations of the bomb-disposal robot.
After festivities, the Royals briefly visited Preuvenemint the annual food festival in Vrijthof Square. A few booths closest to the Theater were cordoned off so that the entourage could sample a couple of items. But most of the event was undisturbed, a festive mix of music, fashion, nibbles and drinks.
I didn’t try much food this year, instead favoring a couple of café’s closer to my apartment.
But I still like taking advantage of late summer evenings to get out and mingle, to see how much Dutch conversation I can understand while eavesdropping, and to look for a good bottle of wine to share with friends at their ‘mix ‘n mingle’ dinner.