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Originally published November 28, 2009 at 11:05 PM | Page modified November 29, 2009 at 9:38 PM

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Nearly 2,300 fans in Tri-Cities line up for Sarah Palin's book-signing

This is Sarah Palin country, proudly conservative, and some 2,300 of the faithful lined up outside the Hastings bookstore here for her book-signing this afternoon.

Seattle Times staff reporter

RICHLAND — This is Sarah Palin country, proudly conservative, and some 2,300 of the faithful lined up outside the Hastings bookstore here for her book-signing this afternoon.

And even when up to 300 or so of them at the tail end of the line that snaked around the block were told that the former Alaska governor wasn't going to be able to sign their copies of "Going Rogue," most didn't mind.

Everybody in line called her "Sarah," just a regular American like themselves, they said.

"She stands for everything that America was built on," said Stacey Coordes, 39, in line with her husband, Brian Coordes, 45, a Pasco farmer. "I hope she's our next Reagan."

They were among those told they wouldn't be getting a book signed by Sen. John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential race.

But they had arrived at 11 a.m. today and figured they'd need luck to meet Palin. The hard-core fans began lining up at 10 a.m. Saturday, 26 hours before the promised noon-to-2 p.m. book signing.

They brought along lawn chairs, tents, propane-gas heaters, sleeping bags and blankets. In turn, Hastings kept its adjoining cafe open all night, and those needing to use a bathroom could ask a store clerk to walk them to the lavatory inside the closed store.

Some of those in line kept busy reading Palin's book. They pronounced it a wonderful book, even if some critics panned it — that would be, of course, liberal critics, they pointed out.

Libbie Fairchild, 31, of Richland, had gotten to page 100.

"She's an excellent writer," said Fairchild, who said she could relate to Palin being a working mother. Palin and Rush Limbaugh are about the only people she'd stand in line for, Fairchild said.

Fairchild, who has three children ages 1, 4 and 6, runs a photo portrait and events business with her husband, Damon.

Palin's critics, she said, "Made it out like she was not a good mom for not spending enough time with her kids." Well, Fairchild said, one big thing about being a good mom is to work if the family needs it. "I have to support my kids," she said.

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Over and over, the perceived liberal bias of the media, and pretty much anybody from Seattle, was brought up.

"They're afraid of her because she's right, and they're scared because she stands for everything they wish they could be," Fairchild said.

Said Debi Danielson, 54, of Yakima, about Palin: "She stands for what we stand for, which is greatly lacking in Seattle ... Only in Seattle can you come up with a government that has the idea that they know how to do everything."

Danielson was here with her husband, Dale, 55, a craftsman who works for the Bureau of Reclamation.

"The state should be chopped in half," Dale Danielson said about Eastside/Westside politics.

"Going Rogue" was released Nov. 17 and is a best-seller. Its publisher, HarperCollins, said it sold 700,000 copies in its first week. The publisher said it has 2.5 million copies in print.

Palin stayed longer at Hastings than the promised two hours, arriving half an hour early and leaving more than a half an hour later. You could only get two books signed; there were no personalized messages; and you couldn't bring a camera to the signing table.

This was the biggest book-signing event at Hastings, said Justin Cardenas, the store manager, and probably the biggest one ever in this town.

It was like a rock star had arrived in the Tri-Cities. Make that a country-music star.

The Palin entourage brought its own CD of country music, and that's what was heard throughout the bookstore.

The fans waited with their cameras for Palin's arrival. She came with her mother and father, Charles and Sally Heath, who are traveling with her on the tour as well as her baby son, Trig, and a host of relatives.

Palin spent Thanksgiving here with family, the area where her grandparents lived, and where both her parents attended school.

"Sarah! Sarah!" fans shouted, and Palin waved.

During the book signing, Palin's mom stood outside by one of the family cars, and kept Trig occupied. Fans posed with them and made baby noises at Trig.

There were no security types around, although local cops were stationed at the store, mostly looking bemused.

At the event, the media was kept away from Palin. Camera crews were allowed about 25 feet from the signing table. Palin's parents didn't mind talking to the news media, however.

It was a chilly but sunny day in the Tri-Cities.

At the end, those attending pronounced it a great event, even if they didn't get to meet Palin.

Said Robert Riley, 46, a Walla Walla farmer and rancher, "She's one of us."

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com

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