AUGUSTA, Maine -- Samantha Smith, the 11-year-old junior diplomat who toured the Soviet Union for two weeks, arrived home Friday to a hero's welcome with a red carpet, roses and a limousine ride to her house.
'I'm happy to be getting home to regular things,' said Samantha, as she was handed a bouquet of specially ordered 'Samantha' roses and a dozen balloons with 'Welcome Home Samantha' written on them.
About 350 well-wishers met Samantha at the Augusta State Airport. They cheered as she stepped from the airplane, wearing a green-striped shirt and purple pants.
She appeared tired from her long trip and slightly confused amid the crush of the crowd, which included dozens of news reporters and cameramen who jostled each other trying to get the best shots.
After a quick greeting from hometown officials, Samantha was put into a black-and-maroon Rolls Royce and whisked home for a private party.
Along the route she passed numerous banners proclaiming, 'Welcome Back Samantha.'
Friday's editions of the Kennebec Journal, her hometown newspaper, carried a large green headline across the top of the front page proclaiming, 'Welcome Home, Samantha!'
Samantha returned to 'a room full of letters' from people who read of her journey to Russia, which began with a letter to Soviet leader Yuri V. Andropov asking whether his country intended to use nuclear weapons.
Most of the letters praised her for taking the trip and wished her luck, said her grandmother, Theresa Smith. However, a few letters criticized her and called her a propagandistic pawn of the Soviet government.
'I think you get bad reactions to even a good piece of cake,' said Theresa Smith. 'It's their prerogative if they have bad things in their background that won't let them accept an endeavor to make friends. Ninety-nine percent of the letters urged her to go.'
Samantha was to be guest of honor Saturday during Manchester Festival Day. She was to ride in a convertible at the front of the parade carrying a bouquet of roses.
The Maine girl will not step out of the spotlight once her the welcome home hoopla has finished. She must still decide whether to accept numerous invitations from network television shows.
Samantha's Soviet tour may also be the beginning of a lecturing career. Many of the letters she received were from school teachers asking Samantha to come talk.
'The teachers want her to give their students some of the excitement she has for history and human events,' said Theresa Smith. 'I'm sure it's something Sam can do because she has a great deal of ability.'
When she first arrived in Boston, her last stop before returning home, she said she first planned to telephone her best friend on returning home and then 'show my friends all my presents. I've got hundreds of them.'
'She's occasionally been tired, but she's pretty spunky and bounced right back,' her father said of the all-expense paid trip where Samantha was treated like a world leader.
The only time Samantha acknowledged the attention was when she was asked if she would make the trip again. Breaking a blank stare, she nodded her head slightly and mouthed a 'yes.'
In Montreal, she said she was convinced after the visit that the Soviet people, 'want no harm to the world, just like us.' But she said she'd, 'rather live in my own country.'