A hodgepodge of swells and just plain folks crossed paths on Broad Street last night to take part in a rare confluence of royal gala and homespun entertainment.

With the city's nightlife enlivened by two big events - the 150th Anniversary Academy Ball and Concert with Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, at the Academy of Music, and a live broadcast of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion at the Kimmel Center - couples in white tie and sweeping ball gowns mingled with people in down jackets and fleece hats.

And if they weren't careful they could have bumped into Indian college students waiting to get into a dance competition at the Merriam Theater, and animal-rights protesters waving signs imploring the Prince of Wales to forbid the Royal Guards to wear real bear-fur hats.

Those who weren't actually taking part in the festivities came to take a gander at those who were, especially the prince and his missus. Rotarians attending a cocktail party at the Doubletree Hotel snuck outside to catch a glimpse of the royal couple.

Erica Rega, one of a group of University of the Arts students sitting outside the Doubletree, said she was there because Charles is "the almost king. How often do you get to see that?"

As an elderly man in a top hat and tails escorting a woman in a sweeping gown walked past, Emily Vidan, a 23-year-old film producer for Comcast, exclaimed, "Look, he looks as if he's going to Ascot. I love it."

Allyssa Pirone, 18, another University of the Arts student, said she had planned to start writing a 12-page paper on the evolution of Christian architecture when she fortuitously remembered that the prince was in town, so she dashed off to get a peek.

However, Sarafina Fitzhugh, 18, a senior at Hope Charter High School, was less impressed. As she was about to go into the subway she saw the crowds and asked what was going on. When told Prince Charles was arriving, she said, "Who is he?"

Just then police cars careened in front of the Academy heralding the arrival of the royal couple. About 30 seconds later, the guests of honor appeared for a brief moment. With a wave and a smile, they disappeared inside.

For John Witherington, 31, an admissions officer for Philadelphia University, it was enough.

"All right, we saw him. Woo-hoo," he said to his girlfriend. "Let's go feed the dog."

Contact staff writer Melissa Dribben at 215-854-2590 or mdribben@phillynews.com.