PRINCE Charles used a giant Welsh dragon flag to wave off the traditional opening day parade at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod yesterday afternoon.
The prince, who is the Eisteddfod’s Patron, also got into the spirit of the occasion by accepting an invitation to have a brief dance with members of a Punjabi bhangra group as he watched the colourful line-up leave the field on its way to the town centre.
Making his first visit to the festival since 2006, the Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, who was wearing a sea green two-piece suit, called in as part of his latest annual tour of the country.
After making a brief tour of Llangollen town centre, the royal couple arrived at the Penddol end of the field to be officially welcomed by Eisteddfod Chairman Gethin Davies who introduced him to fellow officers including Chief Executive David Neal and Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths.
They then made their way along the colourful line of competitors from across the world formed up waiting to march in the parade, pausing to speak to a number of people as they went.
First to meet Prince Charles was Baldab Singh, leader of the Sheerer Punjabi dancers who have been Llangollen regulars since 1982.
Said a delighted Baldab Singh: “It was an honour to meet him and he asked me where we were from and how long we had been competing at the eisteddfod.
“I told him we had been coming here every year for the past 33 years, which he seemed very interested in.”
Later, as the royal guests watched the parade make its way out of the field, the colourfully dressed Sheerer group stopped right in front of him and Mr Singh invited him to join them in a traditional Punjabi dance.
A beaming Prince Charles took little persuading to take part and danced along for a couple of steps with his arms around the necks of the turbaned group members.
A few minutes earlier the prince had been handed a large Welsh dragon flag by the head boy and head girl of Ysgol Dinas Bran in Llangollen, 17-year-old Olivia Holgate and Ross Briscoe, 16.
He used it to wave off the parade, headed by eisteddfod President Terry Waite in an open-topped vintage car, in the style of a grand prix starting line-up.
A he headed along the formed-up parade, Prince Charles stopped to chat to members of a youth choir from Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada which is competing in the eisteddfod.
Among those he spoke to was 17-year-old Ellen Parsons from Newfoundland who said: “It was really exciting to meet him and he was asking about our flight over here and the weather since we arrived.
“He was very easy to talk to and I’ll never forget it.”
Next for the royal greeting was 54-year-old Ian Toothill, a trustee of the North Wales Owl Sanctuary at Bryneglwys, not far from Llangollen.
He said: “I think he came over to us because we were holding two of our birds for him to see, a South African barn owl and a smaller one from Argentina.
“The prince asked us a few questions about how we look after them and it was really good to talk to him.”
Emily Swan, 17, from Slovakia, part of the singing group Cantica Nova, was then singled out for a few royal questions.
“I wasn’t expecting that he’d stop and talk to me but he did. He just asked me where I’m from and I told him. It was a real thrill to meet him.”
An Eisteddfod competitor from closer to home was spoken to next by Prince Charles.
Sam Mindham, 11, from Huddersfield, who is at the festival with the Lindley Junior School Choir from the town, said: “He stopped and asked me where we were from and I told him West Yorkshire.
“He was very nice but he talks really posh!”
The 21 String Ensemble, a group of girls from China who play the traditional guzheng or zither, dating back 3,000 years, also managed a quick conversation with the royal visitor.
Its leader, 32-year-old Yuyen Xu, said: “He saw us waving our big red flags and heard us cheering and just came over to us.
“He asked us where we were from and if we were competing, which I said we were on Friday.
“He was very nice and it was exciting to meet him.”
Veteran Llangollen volunteer Sean Davies from Glyndyfrdwy who was waiting in the parade with the Loughgiel dancers from Northern Ireland whose members she is taking care of this week, actually got a handshake from the prince.
“It was marvellous to meet him and just fantastic to actually have him shake me by the hand,” she said.
And it was second time lucky for 16-year-old Sean Clark, a member of the Kiltearn Fiddlers folk group from the Highlands of Scotland, when it came to meeting the Prince of Wales who came over to speak to him just before waving off the parade.
A kilted Sean said: “I was at a royal garden party at Holyrood in Edinburgh a couple of years ago and unfortunately didn’t get to meet him then.
“This time I did and it was very exciting. He asked me where we came from and about the competition.”
Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths said: “It was great to welcome the Prince of Wales, who is our Patron, to the opening day of the festival.
“He brought a lot of buzz and excitement to the field and our international competitors in particular were thrilled to see him.
“He stayed with us longer than expected and seemed very much at ease.
“It was a fantastic start to this year’s Eisteddfod.”