DUBBO, Australia – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were jokingly grateful for bringing notoriously inclement weather to a drought-affected Outback town on Wednesday on a rain-soaked visit to Dubbo during his tour of Australian royalty .
Former Meghan Markle brought banana bread that she cooked on Tuesday in Sydney as a gift for a family of farmers outside Dubbo who struggled to feed their cows and sheep for two years of below average rain.
"When he learned that he was coming to a family home, he had to bring a dish, so it was lovely," said farmer Elaine Woodley, referring to a dish to share.
The former pregnant American actress and her husband, Prince Harry, got their hands dirty by throwing cotton seeds on hay to feed the cows because of the lack of pastures.
Heavy rain began to fall when the royal couple later arrived at Dubbo Park for a community picnic, but thousands cheered supporters and remained enthusiastic.
"As your royal highs know, our region has been affected by a terrible drought," Mayor Ben Shields told the crowd bathed in waterproof ponchos and umbrellas, which erupted in laughter.
"So we are very happy that you can bring some of the English climate with you today, and we hope it brings some relief to the farming families," Shields added.
Although the rain in recent weeks has been welcome, much more is needed to repair the economic and environmental ravages of the extended dry period.
Drought conditions in the state of New South Wales this year have been the most widespread since 1965.
Meghan held an umbrella over Harry while giving a speech, acknowledging the difficulties that the drought brought to the rural community and urging the victims of the drought not to suffer in silence.
The crowd applauded when Harry touched his own mental health problems after the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a car wreck in a Paris tunnel in 1997. He was 12 years old at the time. Harry, now 34, revealed in an interview last year that he did not seek counseling until he was 20 years old.
"They're all in this together and, if I can talk personally, we're all in this together," Harry said. "Because asking for help was one of the best decisions I've made. You will be continually surprised how life changes for the better. "
The prince ended by thanking Dubbo for his invitation and for sharing his stories, adding: "And the rain was a gift."
Natasha Johnston, director of the charity for the relief of drought, Natasha Johnston congratulated the couple for their empathy.
"Making them recognize that our farmers are suffering and showing up here, it's an honor," Johnston said.
"It has been incredibly difficult." We have had families who can not put food on the table, who can not afford the basics of daily life, who can not afford water to fill their tanks, "he added.
Upon arriving at Dubbo airport, the couple was delighted when 5-year-old Luke Vincent, who has Down Syndrome, hugged them and ruffled his hair and beard.
Luke's school principal, Anne van Dartel, said she had told students not to approach royalty. She suspected that Harry's beard reminded Luke of his favorite celebrity, Santa Claus.
"I was very worried once he started rubbing Prince Harry's face and hair, but Prince Harry was completely kind and very polite and he realized what was happening and (Luke's infatuation) with his beard" said van Dartel to the television network Seven Network.
Luke later told Nine Network television that Harry had overtaken Santa in his estimation.
Harry and Meghan are on a 16-day tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
The main focus of the tour is the Invictus Games, which start in Sydney on Saturday. The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, provides military personnel and wounded and injured veterans with the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, disseminated, rewritten or redistributed.