Leonard Nimoy, the actor who immortalized the character Spock on Star Trek, was hailed as a homecoming hero as he led a parade in Vulcan, Alta., celebrating the town's status as "official Star Trek capital of Canada."
"I've been a Vulcan for 44 years. It's about time I came home," Nimoy, 79, said to cheers.
He spoke about how his achievements as an actor far exceeded what he had dreamed of, but told the crowd, "I've never had an experience quite as touching as this and I appreciate it. Thank you."
He ended his brief address to the town with Spock's signature salute: "May each and every one of you live long and prosper."
More than 1,000 people — many adorned with pointy Vulcan ears or dressed in Star Trek costumes — crammed into the town to catch a glimpse of the star.
"A living legend. I think he's the sexiest man on television, ever," said Christine Desjardins, who sported a red Starfleet tunic. "Then and now. Can't beat him."
Nimoy was invited to visit the town after he backed Vulcan's failed bid to host the world premiere of Star Trek XI in March 2009. His celebrity endorsement swelled interest in the town of about 1,900 people, located 130 kilometres southeast of Calgary.
After a private tour of Vulcan's Trek-inspired tourist centre, Nimoy joined the high-school band, as well as the town council dressed in Star Trek uniforms, in a parade through Vulcan's downtown.
Nimoy unveiled a bronze bust of Spock, Nimoy's character in the Star Trek series, which was commissioned by the town. The mayor then presented him with the key — and transporter co-ordinates — to Vulcan.
"Wait till Bill Shatner hears about this!" he said about his warm welcome.
Nimoy soon to retire
A railway surveyor named the settlement after the Roman god of fire in 1915, but the town shares its name with the birth planet of Spock.
The town has unabashedly embraced its sci-fi connection: visitors are greeted with a star ship model and a welcome plaque in English, Vulcan and Klingon.
For the next year, Nimoy is lending the Vulcan Tourism & Trek Station the Spock ears he wore during the Star Trek television series and an autographed lithograph of the original cast.
The public appearance in Vulcan is likely to be one of Nimoy's last.
"I've announced this past week or so that I will not be doing any more acting. When you're done with that kind of work it's time to go home. So I'm going home," he told CBC News in an interview.
Michael Black, wearing a yellow Starfleet tunic, brought his son Nick, 10, who wore Vulcan ears.
"Especially since this is going to be his retirement party, as it were, I thought what a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show my boy the kind of stuff I used to love when I was his age," Black said.
"He's brought so much to us, to this town, he shows up the least-expected places — Vulcan, Alberta, of all places," he said. "What an honour to be around him and to be part of his legacy."
Nimoy is appearing at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo on the weekend, along with other sci-fi actors including Malcolm McDowell (Alex from A Clockwork Orange), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian from Star Wars) and stars from the Twilight franchise.
Organizers were expecting 15,000 people to attend the expo over two days.
In the interview with CBC News, Nimoy also weighed in on a Facebook campaign to have Shatner — the Canadian who played Capt. James T. Kirk in Star Trek — appointed as Canada's next governor general.
"I hope it happens," Nimoy said of his old co-star, whose career continues to prosper. "It would be a very healthy thing for him to get out of the house and find something to do with his time, don't you think?"