Hundreds turned out Saturday for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's book signing at the Anchorage Dimond Boulevard Costco store.
It was her first public appearance in Alaska since she appeared at a political rally for then-U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller in late October.
Christmas music played as Palin and husband Todd sat at a decorated table between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. signing copies of Palin's bestselling "America By Heart." The Palins chatted with book buyers as the line passed through a curtained area, where the signings took place. News photographers inside and gawkers outside the curtains angled to snap photos of the Palins.
Several times onlookers caught a glimpse of the Palins and exclaimed, "Oh! There she is!" Security kicked out at least two people -- a woman with a "Worst Governor Ever" shirt, and a blogger critical of Palin who claimed security escorted him out after Todd recognized him.
The store was prepared to give out paper wristbands to 1,000 customers, assuring the first 500 they would see Palin. The next 500 had no guarantee; however, fewer than that showed up.
Each person who had a Costco receipt for up to two books was given a wristband and a number on a piece of paper. At the front of the line, just before coming face to face with Alaska's possibly most widely known resident, they placed the number atop their coats and belongings, which went into plastic bins to be retrieved later.
A line that started forming in the single-digit temperatures before sunup numbered about 200 at 9 a.m. By the midway point of the event, fewer than 500 had passed through, Costco general manager Trevor Desatoff said: "We're having a good flow, and people are able to get their books signed, and so far it looks like ... whoever wants a book signed during the time is going to be able to, at least so far, and people who need to get a little Christmas shopping can do that too."
The store had portable toilets outside the night before, Desatoff said, but nobody camped out overnight in the subzero cold.
"Some of our members want this and some don't," Desatoff. "It's kind of like skim milk. Some people want it; some don't. It's not for us to decide what's right or wrong."
The store often hosts authors for book signings, Desatoff said. They'd welcome any best-selling author, including President Barack Obama if he wanted to come, Desatoff said.
Palin's celebrity was the draw for most, including some who didn't fall on the same end of the political spectrum but wanted to give a signed book to family members who were more devoted Palin followers.
"It was very cold this morning but I'm glad I did it; it's for my mother-in-law," said Dee Allenbrand, a Democrat. "Now I'm going to the post office to mail these; they have to get there."
Annette McKee and daughter-in-law April Merchant with Alaska Assistance Dogs brought a goldendoodle service dog, Sir Duke, through the book signing area. The Palins signed Duke's vest.
Duke knows how to "read" by recognizing different commands on pieces of paper in a notebook, which Merchant demonstrated in an aisle at Costco.
But could he read Sarah Palin's book?
"No, he can't read her book, but he likes to read," McKee said.
Duke extended a paw to Merchant, who held a piece of paper with "high-five" written on it.
Merchant is not a fan of Palin's politics.
"Politically, no, but as a person, and as a woman, I totally respect her, and as a mom. I have the highest respect for her," said Merchant, who said she is not affiliated with any particular political party.
"I think she's great for our state," McKee said. "I think her reality show is really good, her scenery in her show, it's so gorgeous, people have to come here and see what we have. And it's good TV. She's fun to watch."
When asked if they considered Palin mostly a celebrity or mostly a politician, people at the signing said she was both.
Chuck and Kathy Lyons are major supporters and said Palin was still a politician first and foremost.
"She's getting everybody stirred up, one way or the other, and that's good. People are talking, that's the thing," said Chuck, an off-duty Costco employee.
"I think she really is serving Alaska great, and I know a lot of people thought she was wrong in stepping down as governor but I think she did it for us," Kathy said. "Because a lot of money was being spent through the state because of that, through lawsuits and everything. I think she's really got a good mind."
Chuck said he usually tells people he wouldn't want to vote for Palin in the 2012 presidential election.
"I say she's doing more good for the benefit of Alaska right now," Chuck said. "I mean, she's on the news, and everybody wants to hear about Alaska, so she's doing more good than bad."
"She can make more money, say what she wants, to who she wants, whenever she wants, no repercussions, and stir the pot," he said. "Keep it going."
Find Casey Grove online at adn.com/contact/casey.grove or call him at 257-4589.