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Palin fans weather cold, lines for chance at autograph

900 estimated at Coeur d’Alene book tour stop

Krista Woodruff arrived at the Coeur d’Alene Fred Meyer store on Wednesday night to wait for a chance to have Sarah Palin autograph a copy of her memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life.”

Woodruff left Palin’s table Thursday afternoon with tears streaming down her face.

“I’m so awed I can hardly put it in words,” said Woodruff, who lives in Spokane.

Many of the estimated 900 people who spent hours in bitter cold for their chance at seeing Palin, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, declared the experience worth the wait.

“You feel that she’s genuine, 100 percent, real-to-the core,” Woodruff said. “I told her we would do anything we could for her and there are five people in my household that would be voting for her.”

But Palin was mum on whether she plans a 2012 presidential campaign — clearly the hope of many people attending the book signing. She did not grant interviews to journalists, only allowing photographers and videographers close enough to capture images.

The stops at the Coeur d’Alene Fred Meyer from noon to 3 p.m. and at the Sandpoint Business and Events Center on Thursday night were the latest in Palin’s cross-country book tour. Each stop has drawn hordes of people, waiting in line for hours to have their books signed.

“I actually started cruising the parking lot at 7 a.m. (Wednesday),” said Tom Howard, 53, of Athol. “My hope is that she’ll run in 2012 for president. I’m going to tell her I’d love to see a Palin-Ron Paul ticket. I know that’s not real popular but I’m still going to ask her.”

Palin was born in Sandpoint but moved with her family to Alaska as an infant. She attended North Idaho College briefly and graduated from the University of Idaho. On Wednesday night, she stayed at The Coeur d’Alene Resort with her mother and father, Chuck and Sally Heath, husband, Todd, and son, Trig, Sally Heath said. Other friends also traveled with the family and were watching Trig on Thursday, she said.

Palin signed books at Fred Meyer until everyone in line had her autograph. “She stayed until 3:30 and got everybody through,” said Melinda Merrill, a Fred Meyer spokeswoman, who estimated the crowd at 900 people. The store provided free coffee and doughnuts beside the stacks of “Going Rogue,” on sale for $17.39.

The first person in line, Mary Ann Porter, of Spokane, showed up at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and eventually was joined by hundreds who camped overnight in the store’s outdoor garden center. The evening took on a party atmosphere, with strangers going in on pizzas together, and watching each other’s belongings during warm-up breaks. Ages ranged from senior citizens to children as the crowd bundled in down parkas, heavy boots and sleeping bags. Shotzy’s coffee shop next door stayed open all night, offering Palin-themed specials like the “Alaskan Mudslide,” and “Roca Rogue Latte.”

Others, like Susan Sunderland of Hayden, showed up Thursday morning, hoping it wouldn’t be too late. Arriving at 8:45 a.m., Sunderland secured spot No. 564 in line, with the first 700 guaranteed an autograph. “I watched it on the news this morning,” Sunderland said around 11 a.m. Thursday. “I didn’t expect to get on line.”

But she did and had two books signed, one for her and one for a co-worker.

Outside the book-signing area, where Palin and her husband signed books, Sally Heath greeted and hugged patrons in a purple blazer adorned with a pin designed to look like a “Vogue” Magazine cover, except it said ROGUE and “The Freedom Issue,” with her daughter’s picture. Heath said she and her husband try to visit North Idaho every couple of years to see friends. Katie Ebbeson, 26, said she strategically planned a business trip from Seattle to Spokane so she could attend the book signing.

“I like that she’s fiscally conservative and she doesn’t spend money that she doesn’t have,” said Ebbeson, who also stayed at the Resort and was able to greet Palin there Wednesday night as well. “I think she’s redefined the role of women in society. I like that she not only is a mom and works but is a real leader. I think that’s awesome.”

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