BUCKLEBURY, England (Reuters Life!) - As Britain prepares to celebrate the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, one place is making sure it pulls out all the stops.
The once sleepy parish of Bucklebury in Berkshire, southern England, where the bride-to-be grew up and where her parents still live, has been swept up in wedding fever.
Its population of 2,000 drawn from tiny hamlets in the heart of the English countryside -- nicknamed “Kate Middleton Country” by the press -- has been working flat out to lay on a wedding day extravaganza.
As local authorities fret over the inevitable media invasion, the burning question on everybody’s lips is just how many people are likely to turn up?
“The world and his wife will be here,” Wynne Frankum, chair of Bucklebury Parish Council told Reuters.
“I’ve no idea what will happen because we have never done it before, so this is new territory for us ... it’s a once in a lifetime experience,” she said.
Events begin with “wedding breakfasts” at the crack of dawn at two leafy village pubs frequented by the Middletons -- there are only three such drinking establishments in the whole of the parish.
At the Cottage Inn in Upper Bucklebury the phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
“It’s absolutely manic,” said landlord Gary Bush whose establishment will throw open its doors at 6 a.m.
“It started off like a little country fete and now it’s just gone berserk. We’ve got all the world’s media turning up,” he told Reuters.
He said a local choir will kick off proceedings and be televised live by British, American, Canadian and Australian networks.
“The police are saying up to 20,000 people will be arriving in the parish, but I can’t see it myself,” Bush said of the expected influx of well wishers.
Celebrations culminate in an exclusive ticket-only “Tea in the Park” party at the local farm where villagers will be entertained by ferret racing, brass bands and a children’s contest for the best crown and tiara amongst other delights.
Other selected venues will feature duck racing contests, serve sizzling hog roasts, hold firework displays and host Morris Dancing -- a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by traditional music.
The BladeBone Inn, a pub in the hamlet of Chapel Row where the Middletons live, will be throwing a party on the village green during the day and hold a ticket-only “knights and maidens” costume event in the evening.
“It’s open to everybody but we are obviously trying to keep it a little discreet because we don’t know whether we are going to be hit by 200 or 2,000 people, or god knows how many,” landlord Simon Kelly said.
“We’ve just had a request to film from ABC news -- they are mental for it the Americans aren’t they?”
John Haley is the landlord of the Old Boot Inn, one of the local pubs frequented by the Middleton family, and he has received a coveted invitation to the wedding.
After the event, Haley said he will be returning to the Old Boot in his wedding finery to host a party expected to finish in the early hours of the morning.
Haley said he expected it would be very emotional to watch Middleton walk down the aisle.
“I‘m going to take a hanky with me, you know, just in case I‘m a bit choked up.”
Editing by Paul Casciato