PICTOU – It was a true example of Pictou County pride, as Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane put it.
Hundreds lined Caladh Avenue and inside the quay, waiting for a glimpse of Prince Charles and Camilla during their four-day tour of Canada over the Victoria Day long weekend.
It was a good moment for Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes.
“In a lot of ways, we’re awestruck because this just doesn’t happen in little towns that often, to have the heir to the crown of England in Pictou and the head of our country. It’s unreal,” he said, adding that it just proves how strong the county is as a whole.
The town cleaned up earlier than usual for the occasion, and so did the spectators.
David Johnston, a Truro magician, donned a tuxedo, coat tails and all.
Johnston has been a royal fan since he was a child and his cartoons were interrupted by a royal wedding.
“There’s a charisma they have in real life. They just have such a way with people. (I’m) just star struck, trying to get a taste of the real thing as opposed to what you see on TV,” he said about their appeal.
On one day of the year, Johnston and his family impersonate the royals – wearing masks and going door-to-door for Halloween.
It was his first royal encounter, having been busy for other visits to the province.
They arrived close to 1 p.m. and were at the front of the rope.
“It’ll be worth it. Like the old Norwegian saying, ‘when Spring comes, winter is forgotten.’ And Maritimers, we know that. As soon as Charles and Camilla get here, the waiting won’t mean anything.”
The fascination started young not only for Johnston, but also for Olivia Fleury.
Fleury was running around with a friend as they impatiently waited for the royals to arrive.
”All the books she gets from the library at school are about the Royal Family. The librarian picks them out for her now before she gets there,” her mother Nicole MacKenzie said, adding that she knows bits of trivia about them like the Prince’s nickname when he was in the military, “action man.”
It was a chance for local musicians to showcase their talent, as Fleur Mainville, Dave Gunning and John Spyder MacDonald all performed.
“Building up to it, it was just sort of ‘Okay, I’ve got this gig coming up and the royals will be there.’ When you’re in here and the atmosphere, it’s really thrilling and really exciting. Everything ran so smoothly. It was just great to be a part of it. I had played for Prince Philip some time ago. It was great to be in that situation again,” MacDonald said after performing “Bless The Ship Hector.”
The stop was the Canadian kick-off for Prince Charles’ wool campaign, an initiative to push wool as a sustainable product.
Gillian Crawford, owner of Lismore Sheep Farm, herded a few of her sheep and a local weaver and spinner to Pictou for the occasion.
“Quite often, sheep farmers are low on the totem pole and they don’t get perhaps as much attention as some of the other farming types get,” she said. “It’s great to encourage sheep and wool in Canada. And great to encourage people to be using wool because there’s such an interest in natural products these days, to remind people that wool is a natural product and can be used for clothing and for things in your house, warmth in your bedroom.”
Prince Charles and Camilla spend the evening and part of Tuesday in Prince Edward Island before departing for Winnipeg for a day.
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda