It’s been a big day on the Jersey Shore.
In the ocean, the rollercoaster left under water in Superstorm Sandy’s wake was in the process of being removed, while on land, the most famous tourist to set foot in the shore town – Prince Harry – visited the rebuilt boardwalk.
The prince, who has been touring the U.S. since last week, charmed a group of children affected by the storm.
Harry (escorted by Gov. Chris Christie) was greeted by screams and cheers from the largely-female waiting crowd under the shade of Jimbo’s Cafe, before strolling in the sunshine to meet locals and construction workers who’ve helped put the devastated resort back together since the storm hit last October.
He also made sure that two young girls felt like princesses. Dressed in aviator-style shades, blue khakis and open-necked white shirt, Harry, 28, met Taylor and Allie Cirigliano, 11 and 7, and joined them in playing the Ball Toss. Taylor was successful (winning a blue elephant) but when her little sister missed out Harry said, “How about this girl having a prize?”
Lucky Allie came away with a Hello Kitty toy. “It was exciting because it’s meeting royalty and I’ve never ever done that. But I was a little scared,” she told PEOPLE.
Her mother Jill, 48, from Middletown, N.J., added, “It has definitely lifted the spirits of this community. It’s an excitement and really wonderful positivity that this area has needed since October.”
“I was impressed with Harry. He is charming and very playful with them. I hoped he would seem like a real, normal person and he did so even more than I had expected.”
Jennifer Maier, borough administrator of nearby Union Beach where 220 homes were lost, told Harry they are building new solar homes with a grant from the New Jersey Sandy Relief fund.
As for the effect that Harry’s visit will have, “Oh my God it’s huge,” she said. “You could not pick anyone who would bring more attention to the Jersey Shore and the situation we are in.”
After his New Jersey visit, Harry went on to the New York City portion of his tour, where he participated in America’s pastime (see photo in carousel above!).