William, Kate cap Canada 'love-in' with rodeo parade
Prince William and Catherine on Friday capped off a whirlwind tour of Canada -- where throngs cheered them like rock stars -- with a parade of 850 horses, cowboys and rodeo clowns before jetting to Los Angeles for a red carpet gala.
Their nine-day visit to the Commonwealth country was their first official trip abroad since the British prince and the former Kate Middleton wed in April.
"In 1939, my great grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, said of her first tour of Canada with her husband, King George VI: 'Canada made us.' Catherine and I now know very well what she meant," William said in a parting speech late Thursday.
"Canada has far surpassed all that we were promised," he added. "Our promise to Canada is that we shall return."
On their last Canadian stop in Calgary, the couple took in a night of rodeo chuck wagon races, bull riding and "mutton busting" for kids, country music and line dancing, and rode in 1912 stagecoach. "Well, that was different," the prince commented.
Friday morning, William and Kate donned white, broad-rimmed cowboy hats -- made locally from rabbit fur -- blue jeans and Western shirts (Kate's blouse by Alice Temperley) to kick off Calgary's 99th Stampede festival and agricultural exhibition with an official klaxon sounding.
Hundreds of thousands gathered along the parade route at dawn for a glimpse of the couple as they barreled past in a black car, waving to the crowd, followed by local tribesmen in traditional regalia with their beaded horses, marching bands and a Cinderella pumpkin carriage.
The city's rodeo hearkens back to the days when lonesome cowboys rode Alberta's open ranges, rolling foothills and badlands.
It attracts one million spectators annually to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, "showcases the pioneer spirit and true grit that have made this country great."
After a visit to Calgary's zoo, the jet-setting royals will bid farewell to Canada and head for Los Angeles for a three-day visit to the US West Coast state of California.
Compared to their casual Canadian tour, William and Kate's all-business US foray will provide fewer opportunities for public royal spotting.
There will be no beach outings or Disneyland rollercoaster rides on the royal itinerary.
Instead, the couple will attend a British Academy of Film and Television Arts dinner honouring 42 young British filmmakers and a charity polo match in Santa Barbara before heading home on Sunday.
In Canada, the duke and duchess of Cambridge paddled in a canoe in the far north, shared the grief of thousands displaced by forest fires in Alberta and snuggled in a rustic wooden cabin in the Rockies.
William also took time to pilot a Sea King helicopter into a lake in emergency water landing drills in Prince Edward Island.
From the start, hundreds of thousands of well-wishers had welcomed them to Ottawa for Canada Day celebrations, and throngs showed up at every stop along the tour to greet them. Millions more watched their adventure on television, including William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, he mentioned.
"I say, we haven't seen a love-in like that since the first visit of the Beatles!" a smitten Harper told a private reception to mark the royal couple's last night in Canada.
"Indeed, everywhere you went you left a trail of utterly charmed Canadians in your wake."
© 2011 AFP