Big crowd welcomes Palin book tour

By Christina Leach Phillips

Correspondent, Clay Today

ORANGE PARK — A crowd estimated to be more than 1,000 people cheered and waved U.S. flags, to greet Sarah Palin as she stepped off her touring bus at the Orange Park Mall Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Palin, former Alaska governor and 2008 RepublicanVice Presidential candidate, was in town promoting her new book, “Going Rogue.”  Before walking into Books-A-Million to sign copies of her book, Palin tried to speak above the loud screams from the crowd.  “Your southern hospitality just blows us away,” she said.  “It is so good to be here.”

Palin thanked everyone for their support, for their encouragement and for reading her book.

Palin said she had her “entourage” with her, which included her family and her parents, Chuck and Sally Heath from Alaska. When she asked her youngest daughter, Piper, if she would like to speak, Piper said, “Thank you for letting us be here.”

Chuck Heath said, “It’s so great to be here – it’s the first time I’ve ever been in Florida.  Thank you for the warm welcome.”

People who lined up outside the store on Monday got the coveted 500 red wristbands that guaranteed they would meet Palin and have their books autographed.  An additional 250 people were given lavender wristbands, which gave them a chance to meet Palin during her two-hour appearance, said Robert Harper, district manager of Books-A-Million

“We’re hopeful that all 750 numbers we hand out are going to get through the lines,” he said.  “We want to make everybody happy, but, of course, there is always the possibility that we’re not going to be able to make that happen — just depending on her schedule and how cooperative everybody is.” 

Most people came to support Palin, who has gone from politician to what some call a celebrity after her unsuccessful run as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate in 2008. 

Wearing a shirt with the words “Read my lipstick Sarah Palin,” Dee Landsford of Orange Park who is a member of the Women’s Republican Party said, “Palin has a large following in Clay County.  She’s not just a cold politician.”

Landsford said she read Palin’s book. “I liked it. She answers a lot of questions that people who don’t care for Sarah brought up.  She wasn’t treated fairly,” Landsford said. “I like her stance on Christianity. She believes in God and is not afraid to say so.  She’s just an honest individual.  What you see is what you get.”

Rich Butler from Fleming Island took off work to take his daughter to meet Sarah Palin. “I sat out yesterday so that I could get a wristband for her, and she is in line today.  “It’s just a piece of history – a moment for her.  I thought it was a great time for her age – a senior in high school – just getting an impression of politics and learning more about the country,” he said.

Jacksonville resident Tad Duke held a sign that read, “Hunter for Palin.”  Duke said, “I came to see my good friend, Sarah Palin. I hunted with her dad for over 40 years.”  Duke said the first time he went to Alaska, he met Palin’s dad, and they became “lifelong friends.”  “I’ve known Sarah since she was 5 years old,” said Duke.

Jacqueline Hayworth and her husband, James Hayworth, drove from Hilton Head, S.C. to see Palin. “She’s a real person,” said Jacqueline.  “She just represents what we believe in,” said James.

Daniel Ballard, a cabinet maker from Jacksonville said, “She is just a regular person.  Some of these problems that we have are really simple to solve.  I think they make them more complicated.  “Over analyze is to paralyze,” he said

Wendy Dasher from Jacksonville came with her two girls, age 5 and 2, and her mother, Nancy Walker, to support Sarah Palin.  “I was up last night until midnight reading her book.  It’s awesome.  She is truly an accomplished woman – when you read what she has to say in her book and some of the things she did in Wasilla, Alaska. She thinks like we think, and she is not willing to give in to people around her,” said Dasher.

Walker said she likes Palin because “she’s real, and she’s down to earth.”

After leaving Orange Park, Palin’s bus headed to The Villages for a 2:30 p.m. appearance and then to Orlando for a 7:30 p.m. appearance.  Palin will take a Thanksgiving break before resuming her 14-state book tour.