MANCHESTER, Maine -- Schoolgirl Samantha Smith led a parade Saturday through her home town and was honored by the governor for her letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov asking if he wiINed for peace.
'Samantha has captured the hearts of people around the world, with her grace and charm and her simple and eloquent message of peace,' Gov. Joseph E. Brennan said of Manchester's 11-year-old celebrity.
Samantha returned home Friday after a tour of the Soviet Union at Andropov's invitation.
More than 100 people gathered on the front lawn of the Manchester Elementary School as Brennan praised Samantha.
'We are proud of the way you have conducted yourself under the lights of all the television cameras,' he said as an army of photographers clicked away, and television crews moved to catch her every smile.
During the ceremony, Samantha climbed on a small box to speak to those attending the festival. 'Thanks an awful lot. I'm awful glad to be home,' she said.
Samantha has been in the news since she wrote a letter to Andropov asking why he wanted to conquer the world. 'The spring of Samantha turned into the Summer of Samantha,' Brennan said.
Local civic organizations and businesses, in a hastily prepared ceremony, presented her with flowers and a key to the town, handshakes, kisses and a recording of a song about her trip.
Manchester, a community of 1,300, celebrated its biggest Festival Day since the event began in 1977, said state Sen. Charles Dow, who noted the crowd was the biggest he'd ever seen.
With Samantha as the drawing card, hundreds of people lined the rural street to catch a glimpse of her perched on the back of a light blue convertible.
Samantha, a bouquet of red roses in hand, waved to the crowds gathered on each side of the road. She was flanked in the back seat of the car by her parents, Jane and Arthur.
The parade, a hometown affair, included Brownie and Boy Scout troops, a flatbed trailer with eight members of the Manchester Community Church clad in light blue robes singing spirituals, clowns in homemade outfits carrying a banner that read 'Welcome Home Samantha.'
Samantha and her parents had spent two weeks touring Moscow, Leningrad and the Crimea at the expense of the Soviet government.
Andropov, who failed to meet personally with Samantha, received a volume of Mark Twain's writings. In his letter return to Smanatha, Andropov compared her to Becky Thatcher, a character in Twain's 'Tom Sawyer.'
The family is still considering requests for speaking engagements and televsion appearances.