(NEW YORK) — It was a day at the races for the royal family today as Diamond Jubilee celebrations kicked off, honoring the 60 years Queen Elizabeth has spent on the throne.
The four-day festivities officially began with a 41-gun salute by the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery at Horse Guards Parade in central London.
The 86-year-old monarch waved to well-wishers lining the streets as she was driven to the Epsom racecourse to take in one of the year’s biggest horse-racing events. She was accompanied by husband Prince Philip, her sons Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, and her granddaughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
“Dancing With the Stars” runner-up Katherine Jenkins sang “God Save The Queen” before the race began.
“This is definitely a day that I will never forget,” the Welsh singer told the BBC.
Queen Elizabeth watched from the royal box as a horse named Camelot won the race.
The queen, who is an avid horse breeder and racing fan, has been attending the Epsom Derby for eight decades. After the race, she presented prizes to some of the winners and chatted with jockeys and trainers while a cheering crowd waved mini Union Jacks.
Tomorrow, the monarch will lead a flotilla of 1,000 boats down the Thames River on the royal barge, which is draped in red and gold. She’ll disembark at the Tower Bridge where she will watch the remainder of the floating tribute go down the river.
An estimated 20,000 well-wishers will line the banks of the river, but those at home are encouraged to share lunch with neighbors and friends as part of the celebration.
On Monday, the BBC will broadcast a concert from Buckingham Palace. At the end of the concert, Queen Elizabeth will light the national beacon. Around the country and in British commonwealths, 4,000 beacons will then be lit.
The four-day festivities will wind down on Tuesday with a Service of Thanksgiving for the queen at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The monarch will close the opulent four days of celebrations by riding in a formal carriage procession.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN
Ivana Kottasova, CNN