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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sarah signs books for the hometown gang

I hadn't decided, as of last night, if I was going to the Wasilla, Alaska book signing for Sarah Palin's book "Going Rogue." I'd read so many other accounts of the event and it felt odd to stand in line to get a book signed. I have spent some time with Sarah's mom since her return from the tour and I knew I didn't want to bother her or Sarah's dad by asking them to get a book signed. I mean, so many people here know Sarah on some level and if every single one of them asked for a favor, it would be impossible to grant them all. It only made sense that we would all meet at the sports complex that Sarah helped become a reality to have our books signed. So last night, I asked the crew (i.e. my family) if anyone wanted to go with me. The only taker was Sam (Samantha) my step-daughter who has participated in several political events with me, and whose mom wanted a book signed but couldn't get away from work.

I had read the event would take place on the turf court at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center. Sarah pushed hard to have that center built and it is used often. I've been spending quite a bit of time there recently preparing for the Christmas Friendship Dinner and knew that some of the organizers from the dinner steering committee would be there, standing in line with me. Because the center is large and the dinner committee had decorated the turf court the first week of December with a lot of Christmas decorations, I was fairly confident that they would allow us inside once the center opened so that no one would have to stand out in the cold. I decided we would leave at 8:00 in the morning.

I woke with my husband at 6:00 and got ready. Both Sam and my daughter Cassie were dressed and ready to go by 8:00. My daughter is working at the Wasilla Alaska Wildberry Store, a very popular tourist spot and a very busy place during Christmas as Alaskans send salmon and Alaskan chocolates to their friends outside Alaska. Her boss was going to be working out at the gym next door, so we decided to stop at Pandemonium Booksellers and Cafe to drop Cassie off, and then Sam and I headed to the sports complex, coffees in hand. As you can see from the photos, it was still pretty dark. The solstice was yesterday, and the longest day of the year has still allowed us only 5 hours of daylight this time of year.

Again, it was dark when we pulled into the parking lot of the sports center just before 9:00 this morning. When we entered I immediately saw many people I knew. Lynn Gattis was greeting, as well as LindaJo Klapperich and her daughter Angelina. Angelina is our local Miss Forget Me Not, which is the Alaska State Flower. They are all members of the Valley Republican Women's Club, of which I am now the president.

Sam and I entered and took our place in line. They had the turf court roped with chairs and we were queued up like we were waiting for a ride at Disneyland. We took our place in line, and then saw Sharon Benson entering. Sharon is a good friend of the Palin family and her husband Don Benson is mentioned in Sarah's book on page 120, along with Adrian Lane who I saw just yesterday at Sally's house. Adrian and Don are good guys and real characters, and together with Chuck I am sure they made quite the trio at Humpy's the night of Sarah's election as governor. They are great men and very funny! Someone came by with chairs while we were waiting in line, and Sharon and I took pics of each other. We were actually having a fun time. I really like Sharon. She was one of the people that was very encouraging, and still is, regarding my run for President of the Valley Republican Women's Club.

Sharon and I decided to take turns walking around talking to people we knew. I ran into Lyn Carden, who is the head of the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce, as well as our current Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright. Everyone was very excited and even though it would have been nice to work the event, I'm glad I didn't because it gave me a chance to talk to many people I hadn't seen in a while. The Conservative Patriots Group was there. They host our local tea party and are great activists and I enjoy being involved with them (you can check out my tea party posts for pics of some of these people and events).

I ran into James Hastings, who runs the sports complex and asked him if I could go upstairs where Sarah would be signing and take a few pics of the crowd on the turf court, and he was nice enough to let me. You will see they have the nets up. This keeps the ball on the court during games, but makes for difficult picture-taking conditions. At this time, it was about 10:00 am and there was still an hour before Sarah would be there.

At about 10:30, Sally and Chuck Heath arrived. They are Sarah's parents and really great people. So many supporters have met them and commented on how down to earth they are. It really is true. They both have a gift of making you feel like you're very special when you speak to them, and I so enjoy spending time with them. So many people know them, and there were lots of hugs to go around. The crowd started getting thicker and we knew that soon Sarah would be there. Chuck Heath Jr, Sarah's brother, arrived with his two sons Kier and Teko. I don't know who was cuter - the kids signing autographs, or Chuck jr. who was trying to sign autographs himself while smiling and taking pics of his boys. He said the boys really enjoyed signing books, and Teko has just learned to write his name and did a great job!

James Hasting of the sports complex made an announcement that we would be allowed 3 books to be signed. There weren't as many people here and if there was time, people would be allowed to get in line a second time if they had more books. We were all pleased that everyone would get a book signed, and then some. A few minutes later, Sarah arrived. Here is a video clip of her arrival. The first person she is talking to is the head of the Christmas Friendship Dinner to be held on Christmas Day, and they discuss it in this clip.

Sarah was upstairs and waved to the crowd, and then sat down and started signing books. It didn't take long, even though we were about 200 people back, for Sharon and I to get to the book signing table. Sharon's husband Don was not able to make it, so Sharon had a book for him and he called a couple of times to wish us well. Adrian Lane was helping open books and I joked with him asking him how he had gotten this gig (I just saw him last night at Chuck and Sally's house). Sarah then thanked me for coming and I told her that I had just been elected as president of the Valley Republican Women's Club. Sally is a member, but was in the lower 48 somewhere with Sarah during the elections, so she didn't even know until a day or so ago. When I told her I had been elected, she said, "Rock on!" She then asked about GayleAnn, the previous president. I explained that GayleAnn was still a member, but wanted to devote more time to the Heartreach Pregnancy Center, where she is a speaker and volunteer. Sarah was pleased with this, and I thanked Sarah and Todd again for coming and signing my book, while I took a picture of Sarah signing Sharon's books. It was great fun. We were allowed to take our own photos, which made me really happy, even though my pic was with my cell phone. I didn't think Sharon would want to mess with my Canon SLR!

Sharon and I were happy and I set off downstairs to find other volunteers from the Christmas Friendship Dinner committee. I ran into Sally, Chuck and Chuck Jr again several times. But the best part of the day was about to come. As we were leaving down hall, I saw LindaJo standing next to three young servicemen. They were standing in front of the offices which had been set up as a VIP area, and her daughter Angelina was inside. I overheard LindaJo say my name, and then call me over. One of the young men explained that they were Marines getting ready to deploy overseas and were given persmission to come over to see Sarah and get a book signed, but there were still about 1000 people in line, and they needed to be back on base in 1/2 hour. One kid, you could see, was almost desperate. They had spoken to anyone who had a name badge on that they could find, but no one knew how to get them to Sarah. I saw Lyn Carden, the head of the chamber, down the hall so I asked the boys to wait and ran to try to catch up with her. I explained the situation to her and brought her over. I asked her, "do you think you can get these guys to see her so they can get out of here quick?" She promised she would take care of them and make sure they got to see Sarah. As these young men started to leave, one of them said, "Thank you so much" and gave me a big hug, and then other two joined in. I explained to them I was ex-Navy and it was my job to make sure they got to where they needed to be, being Marines and all. We all smiled and they hurried off with Lyn. That was the best part of my day, because I felt like I was put there to help these kids see Sarah, and I know she enjoyed seeing them. And that's what it's all about for all of us, right?

For this post and more, please visit my blog at Finding Myself In Alaska

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