The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 3, 2012

Royal couple not demanding, but visit still takes lots of prep work

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

ST PETER — Lists of demands from musicians who have performed in the area have been quite impressive.

Aerosmith, for example, insisted on a backstage room decorated in East Indian garb, fresh ears of corn on the cob (cooked three minutes only), chicken tikka pieces with yogurt and mint dip, and Sundance cherry soda, among other things. Oh, and absolutely no “pressed meats” could be served.

So one can only imagine what the requirements would be for royalty. His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf and Her Majesty the Queen Silvia will visit Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter on Friday, and faculty and staff have been preparing in earnest.

But as Barb Larson Taylor of Gustavus came to learn, King Carl and Queen Silvia are pretty low key. They don’t need a darn thing, according to a royal court member who has been coordinating the visit with Taylor, who is assistant to the president for special projects.

“He has conveyed to us nothing but their majesties are excited to come,” Taylor said. “He assured us to just enjoy their visit and not get so worried about the protocol.”

Still, the campus has been working to make the king and queen feel safe and welcome during their visit for about a year with early preparations having begun three years ago.

Taylor said the college wanted to plan something extra special for the 150th anniversary of Gustavus, and they immediately thought of the king and queen, who visited Gustavus together in 1982 and 1996. King Carl also came alone in April 1976 during the U.S. bicentennial.

The college’s Swedish heritage traces back to a Swedish-immigrant pastor named Eric Norelius, who opened a school in a tiny church house in Red Wing in 1862. That school eventually came to be Gustavus, which has called St. Peter its home since 1876.

Taylor began the informal process of bringing the couple to campus several years ago by putting a feeler out to members of the royal court with assistance from the American Swedish Institute. When a formal request was sent, the king and queen accepted and plans were set into motion to organize everything from hotel stay to security.

The couple will stay in a Minneapolis hotel and drive down for the Gustavus festivities.

In line with the rest of the low-maintenance aspects of the visit, security isn’t a huge concern either, Taylor said, aside from bomb sweeps of buildings. Fewer than 10 Secret Service officers will work with Gustavus Campus Safety to monitor the events. And those attending ticketed events will have to present photo ID and submit their bags to be checked.

“Almost basic security that you do at like a Minnesota Vikings game,” Taylor said.

Protocol also requires the king and queen to be the last to enter a room and the first to leave it.

“We were expecting we’d need to have snipers on our roofs and that just doesn’t have to happen,” she joked.

About 1,000 kindergarten through sixth-graders will be among the welcoming party when the king and queen first arrive on campus in a car. Many classes are busy at work making scrapbook pages that Gustavus will bind and give to the royal couple as a keepsake of the visit.

Gustavus staff visited St. Peter classrooms Tuesday and Wednesday to make sure the children know what to do and what to expect. Taylor said staff are pre-warning kids that their majesties are not the kind of king and queen they see in fairytales.

“They’re not going to be wearing crowns (or a) gown,” Taylor said. “They’re going to be in a business suit. ... They just look like grandparents.”

Otherwise, campus beautification, such as extra cleaning and flower-planting, has been ongoing for months in anticipation of the visit. And 125 volunteers will be spread out on campus throughout the day to ensure that their majesties, as well as campus visitors, feel welcome and enjoy the day.

“We pride ourselves in our hospitality and being really welcoming,” Taylor said.

For those who can’t make it, Gustavus will webstream all the programs at www.gac.edu.