Camping out all night for Palin

At 7 o’clock on Saturday night, I drove into the parking lot of the Barnes and Noble store in Sioux City and discovered a small group of hardy souls, ready to camp out all night in order to be first in line to get former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s autograph on her new book.

Cindy Rilling and Leisa Stapp of Moville, Iowa, arrived at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and snagged the closest parking spot to the store’s front door.  They’re equipped with layer upon layer of clothing, “sub-zero” sleeping bags, a propane heater and a small tent.  “We’re so excited.  We’re a little crazy anyway.” Rilling told me four hours later, when I arrived at 7 p.m.  “We’re always up for a good time, an excuse to go out and do something.”

Why do this for Sarah Palin?

“She is me.  Everything that she stands for.  Standing up, being honest, no matter what anyone else thinks. I admire that.  I always say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like Sarah Palin,'” Rilling said, with a laugh. “Plus, we’re setting a really good example for our kids.  We did not force them out tonight.”

Rilling’s 14-year-old son and Stapp’s 13-year-old son were standing nearby, but were bashful about speaking on tape.  Rilling’s son described the night ahead as “something to do.”  When I asked the other young man why he was there, he said, “Same,” and shrugged his shoulders as all four (mothers and sons) giggled.  The boys, er, young men are destined to spend part of the night in the small tent that’s already set up in the parking space, surrounded by camp chairs.

Stapp hopes Palin runs for president in 2012.  “Sarah Palin represents a movement,” she said, calling Palin “a grassroots, good conservative and she also represents to me going against a government that no longer represents its people…She is standing up and representing people whose voices have not been heard for a decade or more.”

Both women have been planning this literal night out for about six weeks, ever since they heard Palin would be signing books at this Sioux City bookstore.

The two women and their sons were not the first in line, however.  That distinction was earned by 22-year-old Todd Sargeant of Lebanon, Ohio.  That is not a typo.  He is from Ohio, not Iowa, and he arrived in Sioux City, Iowa at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“I missed her in Cincinnati and this was the closest spot I could come to meet her,” Sargeant told me.  Sargeant was sitting in a camp chair, clutching a green Barnes and Noble bag.  Inside were two copies of “Going Rogue.”

“I think she’s an inspiration to so many people and it’s just an honor to be here to get to meet her,” Sargeant said.  He, too, hopes Palin runs for president in 2012.

Sargeant may have to run in place himself this evening.  He was not equipped with the kind of outdoor gear the team from Moville had.  Sargeant is hoping he can stay warm with two coats and a blanket from his car.

Right now, at 8 p.m., the air temperature in Sioux City is 19 degrees, but a wind is blowing, so it feels like 10 degrees.  That’s fairly close to the weather conditions in Wasilla, Alaska right now.  According to The Weather Channel it’s 16 degrees and, with the wind, it feels like nine degrees in Wasilla — but it is 5 p.m. there.

As I left the crew of Palin fans to headed back to my heated hotel room nearby, Stapp was putting “D” batteries in her socks.  “I wear these to football games,” she explained, gesturing to her heated socks.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.