College students ditched class, employees skipped work and some huddled in the cold overnight just to make sure they get an orange wristband Wednesday that would let them meet Sarah Palin.
A line of more than a thousand people — some sporting Palin Power stickers and Palin T-shirts — moved slowly into a Barnes & Noble store Wednesday to see the former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor on the first stop of her “Going Rogue” book tour. During the hours they waited, some broke out in chants of “Palin! Palin! Palin!”
Scores more who couldn’t get wristbands awaited Palin’s arrival outside, braving the cold and yelling. “USA!” and “Sarah, Sarah!” at an event that took on the feel of a political pep rally.
“She’s a person of faith, she has a family, she has gone through a lot of the trials and tribulations we have. I’d vote for her in a heartbeat,” said Lana Smith, a dispatcher at a bus company who took the day off work and had been waiting in line since 5:30 a.m.
“Someday I hope her name is up in lights and I’ll have had the privilege of meeting her,” Smith said.
The song “Only in America,” a standard on George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign stops, played as Palin’s tour bus, painted to resemble the cover of her book, pulled up to the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids.
“I just can’t tell you how good it is to be back in Michigan,” the former Alaska governor said after getting off the bus carrying her youngest son, Trig. “Alaska and Michigan have so much in common, with the huntin’ and the fishin’ and the hockey moms, and just the hardworking, patriotic Americans who are here.”
Palin took time to shake hands with most of those whose books she signed, something 50-year-old Bill Buckner appreciated after Palin signed books for him and his 21-year-old daughter, Michelle.
“We are very, very honored that she came here. And coming to Grand Rapids as her No. 1 stop is even better,” said Buckner, who had gotten in line around 4:30 a.m.
The memoir was released Tuesday but has topped best-seller lists for weeks. At the Barnes & Noble, more than 1,000 orange wristbands were handed out, allowing wearers to get two copies autographed by Palin at the three-hour signing event.
Tom Maike got in line at 1 a.m. after driving the 90 minutes from his home in White Cloud. Wearing a button on his baseball cap that said, “Don’t blame me, I voted for Sarah,” Maike said he plans to keep one of his signed books for himself and will give the other to his sister or his daughter — “whichever one talks me out of it.”
Rachel Baragar, 72, praised Palin’s honesty and down-to-earth manner.
“She could be your next-door neighbor,” said Baragar, wearing a “Palin Power” bumper sticker across her red sweat shirt.
College students Megan Patzky of Racine, Wis., and Sarah Cranmer of Chicago waited in line overnight and skipped their Wednesday classes at nearby Calvin College to get an autograph. Patzky planned to give the signed book to her father for Christmas.
After standing in the cold all night, Patzky and Cranmer were happy to get into the mall around 6:15 a.m. “We were hoping that someone would start selling coffee, but nobody did,” Patzky joked.
“Going Rogue” follows Palin from childhood to her departure last summer as Alaska governor. The title refers to her independent streak as a candidate, stemming from complaints within the campaign of GOP presidential nominee John McCain that she had gone “rogue” by disagreeing with the campaign’s decision to pull out of Michigan last October.
McCain halted his campaign in the state after internal polls showed Obama approaching a double-digit lead. Palin publicly disagreed with the move and said she’d “sure love to get to run to Michigan” to make sure residents know the Republicans had not given up in the state.
Before the pullout, Palin had campaigned with McCain in Grand Rapids and the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights. Her three-week book tour is expected to largely mirror the 2008 race with stops in cities such as Noblesville, Ind.; Washington, Pa., and Rochester, N.Y.
Many of those waiting at the Michigan bookstore said they would vote for Palin if she decides to run for president in 2012.
“I believe she’s a good, strong person to do the things we need to do in this country,” said David Zak, 70, who drove about two hours out of his way on his way from Wisconsin to his home in southeast Michigan to see Palin. “I like her Christian philosophy. I like that she’s pro-life. I believe she can do what needs to be done to get ahead.”
Associated Press Writer James Prichard contributed to this report.