Public parties for royal birthdays

Official 75th birthday celebrations for Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja got underway Thursday afternoon at the Royal Palace, and were set to culminate later in the evening with a government-hosted outdoor concert on the roof of Oslo’s Opera House. The royal family waved from their balcony as the parties began.

King Harald and Queen Sonja were officially celebrating their 75th birthdays on Thursday, waving here from the Royal Palace in an outdoor salute carried live on national TV by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). At left: Princess Martha Louise (in white) with her husband and their three daughters, and at right, Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, her son Marius Borg Høiby and their two younger children Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

They may not attract as many spectators as a Canadian teen idol did on Wednesday, but the government was hoping that at least 8,000 people would turn out for the outdoor party they were hosting Thursday evening on the Opera’s roof. That’s where an estimated 20,000 screaming fans of singer Justin Bieber also flocked on Wednesday under mostly sunny skies.

The weather outlook wasn’t as good for Thursday evening, but Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg hoped that wouldn’t stop folks from showing up. He’ll be the official host of the evening event that was rounding off several other celebrations of the king’s and queen’s respective birthdays.

King Harald turned 75 on February 21, but opted to leave the country on a private trip at the time, and Queen Sonja’s 75th birthday will be on July 4th, during Norway’s traditional summer holidays. The couple thus settled on a joint state celebration day between the two dates, and it all began early Thursday afternoon.

Here was their view from the palace balcony, as aired by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), while the royal guards marched in formation and an estimated 3,000 small children waved from the sidelines. They later all sang Norway's traditional birthday song "Hurra for deg" to the royal couple. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/Views and News

Even though a public sector strike has shut down many day care centers around Oslo, several had been invited to take their children to the plaza in front of the Royal Palace at around 1:30pm. Many showed up and were served boller og brus (buns and soft drinks) by palace staff while they waited for the royals to appear on the palace balcony.

The King’s Guards were also on hand, along with the royal military band, to play and perform for the monarch and Queen Sonja, who were joined by their children, Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Martha Louise, the king’s sister Princess Astrid and their spouses including Crown Princess Mette-Marit, and their grandchildren.

The outdoor afternoon event rounded off with the children singing Norway’s traditional birthday song Hurra for deg, led by Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang.

Then the royal couple were due to receive formal congratulations at the palace from Norway’s Supreme Court Justice Tore Schei, Stoltenberg and the president of the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget), Dag Terje Andersen.

At 4pm they would attend a special church service at the Oslo Cathedral before finally heading for the Opera House, where they were expected to arrive on the royal boat Stjernen, which is normally attached to the royal yacht Norge.

The public would start being admitted to the roof of the Opera from 5:15pm, well before the royals would arrive at 7:35pm. The government-hosted party was to be hosted by singer Herborg Kråkevik and include the free concert featuring such Norwegian performers as Marit Larsen, Ole Paus, Henning Kraggerud, hip-hop duo Envy and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.

The state already has funded traveling museum exhibits on behalf of the royal couple, featuring items from their various palaces that haven’t been on public display before. The exhibits are a gift to the royals, who also are attending their openings and promoting the idea of a permanent museum to house the royal collections.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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