Royals watchers crowd Carpinteria polo club
Just after noon, the anticipated couple, William and Catherine, arrived at the Carpinteria polo club in a gray helicopter.
Guests, who had arrived about 11 a.m., gathered on the side of the red carpet and cheered as the couple made their way to a white lunch tent, where the tables were decorated with vases of white peonies.
As the morning fog cleared to a classic Southern California summer day, people waved and sipped Champagne from flutes as they stood on the lawns, with a light breeze coming in off the ocean.
Photos: William and Catherine in L.A.
Catherine wore a simple taupe spring dress with flowered print, and William wore white slacks and a navy blazer.
William will compete in this afternoon’s polo match, and the former Kate Middleton will award a trophy to the winning team.
About a dozen celebrities were attending the event, which is part of the second day of the newlyweds' visit to Southern California.
Guests attending the sit-down lunch, complete with cocktails, paid $4,000 a ticket.
On the other side of the field, thousands paid $400 for a boxed lunch. The menu included grilled vegetable sandwiches with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, penne with butternut squash, walnuts and mascarpone cheese, and chicken and arugula in a pita pocket. A selection of cookies was also available.
Among the attendees was Marianne Schwab, a travel blog writer, who traveled from the Los Angeles area for the polo match. Schwab, like many Americans fascinated by the couple, viewed William's nuptials and his late mother's wedding to Prince Charles. She researched the polo event on the Internet and decided to attend.
“As a royal watcher, this is a must-do,” she said. “Plus, I can blog about it.”
Cousins Redonna Carpenter-Woods, 46, and Theresa Edward-Dymally, 48, likewise decided this was an event they could not pass up. The two drove to the area from the north San Fernando Valley.
“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Carpenter-Woods, wearing a white summer dress and a matching white sun hat. She was also drawn by the couple’s demeanor. “They’re so real, not like royalty,” she said. “I’m just amazed at how they manage all this.”
Carpenter-Woods, a bank vice president, and Edward-Dymally, a school psychologist, were a little put off by the price of the tickets but decided to take the plunge.
“I had a garage sale and bought one,” Carpenter-Woods said jokingly.
Diana Lytel, 32, and her husband, Kipley Lytel, 43, live in condos overlooking the polo fields.
Diana, an attorney, said security had been in place for weeks. The British Secret Intelligence Service inspected everyone’s home and gave residents passes to get in and out of their neighborhood.
While most of the Lytels' neighbors had balcony parties, Diana and Kipley wanted to mingle with the crowd at the polo match.
“This is the biggest event we’ve ever had here, so we had to come down and feel the vibe,” she said.
The match started around 2 p.m. To be on William's team, each player paid $100,000. The event was a benefit for the American Friends of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.
So far, the couple have also attended a technology conference in Beverly Hills and a private reception at the home of the British consul general in Hancock Park.
On Saturday night, they will head by helicopter from Carpinteria to Los Angeles to attend a black-tie event at the Belasco Theater downtown. The evening will be hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, of which William was named president in February 2010.
-- Catherine Saillant in Carpinteria; Nicole Santa Cruz and Kate Mather in Los Angeles
Photo: Prince William plays during the charity polo match at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet club. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times