Sarah Palin admirers brave the early hours and the cold to see their hero

Supporters began waiting in line at 5 a.m. Monday morning for the opportunity to meet Sarah Palin.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Supporters began waiting in line at 5 a.m. Monday morning for the opportunity to meet Sarah Palin.

This is how pack journalism works:

I was chatting this morning with Lori McKinny, a Burnsville woman who looks as much like Gov. Sarah Palin as Tina Fey does.

McKinny was standing outside one of the barriers in a rotunda of the Mall of America that were set up to keep some sense of order when the real Palin arrived to sign copies of her books.

“Didn’t come here to get a book signed,” said McKinny. “Just hoped that maybe I could get a picture with me standing here and her [Palin] up there [on the stage that was set up for the signing].”

Anyhow, I was chatting with McKinny when a reporter from the Star Tribune spotted us.

Soon, she joined us.

Then, the guy from WCCO Radio. Then, the guy from the Pioneer Press and some television people. Soon, McKinny and I were surrounded by journalists.

“If I’d known we’d attract this attention,” said McKinny’s friend, Karolynne Reinke, “I would have dressed up a little more.”

Palin arrives early but stays mum with press
The real Palin, it should be noted, was not speaking with the press on this day. She didn’t even make any announcement to the masses — estimated at about 1,400 people by a mall official — when she arrived for the signing 20 minutes early, 11:40 a.m.

Boom. It happened just like that. Suddenly some piped-in Christmas music began — “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” — and the army of security guards started moving people back from barriers and Palin was on the stage, with husband Todd and baby Trig. There was a buzz in the crowd. Digital camera flashes lit up the place, and she went to work.

Sarah Palin, with an assist from husband Todd, autographed books today at the Mall of America.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Sarah Palin, with an assist from husband Todd, autographed books today at the Mall of America.

The first person in line, by the way, was Darla Hathaway, a Rosemount woman who had awakened at 3 a.m. and got in line sometime before 5. How she ended up first in line among hundreds of other Palin fans wasn’t clear, even to her. But there she was, first up, in a line that started forming outside the megamall in the cold and dark.

“Very, very cold,” said Hathaway.

But what she got, besides cold feet, were a handshake from the woman she admires so much and a big smile. She also got an autograph on her copy of “Going Rogue.” The Palin autograph, in red felt tip ink, was a big scrawled “S” and maybe the name “Palin.”

“She asked me my name, and how I was doing,” said Hathaway. “It was absolutely worth the “wait. It was, ummm, wonderful.”

Would you stand in line for any other political figure or celebrity?

Hathaway pondered that question for a moment.

“Not too many,” she said. “Maybe [conservative talk show hosts] Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck.”

There was a process for getting the former governor’s scrawl in her book:

1. The book had to be purchased at a Barnes & Noble store. For those who didn’t have a proof-of-purchase receipt, the bookstore had set up a special counter near where Palin was to sign the books. The books were flying off the rolling cart.

2. Those in line had to have a wristband. The first 500 people in line with their B&N purchased book were given an orange wristband. The next 500 received a teal-colored band. The teal folks were sent to a special bullpen sort of area.

“They told us there are no guarantees,” said Bill Collins, who stood with his wife, Bonnie, in the bullpen area.

A long but worthwhile trip
The Collinses are from Lincoln, Neb. The two had started their journey toward the mall on Sunday, stopping in Mason City en route.

“My hippie sister lives there,” said Bonnie. “She doesn’t like Gov. Palin, but we love her anyway.”

Bonnie’s sister fed the Collinses dinner Sunday night — chicken enchiladas — and tried to tell them they shouldn’t worry about arriving at the mall early.

“She said nobody would be there,” said Bonnie. “We wanted to leave at 1 [a.m.], but she talked us into waiting until 2 [a.m.].”

The Collinses arrived at the mall about 4:40 a.m., parked their car and got in line. They were disappointed that they weren’t in the orange wristband grouping but remained hopeful.

“If we just get a glimpse of her, the trip will have been worthwhile,” said Bonnie.

But neither those with the teal bands — nor those with magenta bands, who were even further back on the priority list — could see Palin from where they stood.

Why would anyone drive from Nebraska or Rosemount to stand in line for a glimpse and a scrawled “SPalin”?

“We love Sarah,” said Bonnie. “She’s honest, trustworthy, a genuine person.”

The Collinses did get a glimpse of their hero in the final days of the presidential campaign when she stopped in Omaha.

They carried a homemade sign that read, “Drill baby, drill,” for that event.

Bonnie Collins, left, and other Sarah Palin fans display their freshly autographed copies of "Going Rogue."
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Bonnie Collins, left, and other Sarah Palin fans display their freshly autographed copies of “Going Rogue.”

Signs were not allowed at this event, or at least weren’t supposed to be allowed. A few signs did pop up, and there were campaign buttons, including an intriguing one that read: “Palin-Bachmann” in 2012, in tribute to another Republican, 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann.

There was also one 33-year-old man, identified by police as Jeremy Paul Olson, who tried to crash the party by throwing tomatoes — apparently at Palin — from a balcony above the stage. He missed her by such a distance that witnesses say she didn’t miss a signature, but a tomato did hit a Bloomington police officer and Olson was arrested and charged with fourth-degree assault on an officer.

The former governor’s crowd crossed age — though not race — categories. Virtually everyone in the orange, teal and magenta lines was white.

GOP candidates show up, too
But beyond that, there were sad Vikings fans, pregnant women, people in wheelchairs, unemployed workers — and a couple of Republican candidates.

Phil Herwig, who is running for governor, was in the orange line because he believes she’s a true conservative, not like so many of those who he says campaign conservative but then turn moderate following election.

“She seems to mean what she says,” said Herwig, who compared her to Paul Wellstone and Martin Luther King as people of conviction.

He looked at the huge lines of people and smiled.

“I think if you took the pulses of [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, [Minnesota Senate Majoirty Leader] Pogemiller and [Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson] Kelliher, they’d be a little nervous when they saw this,” he said. “This is the sign of the tsunami coming.”

Another pol, Tom Conlon, was also on hand. A former St. Paul School Board member who now is running for state auditor, he was working the crowd.

When he saw the media horde surrounding McKinny, the not-really Palin, he grabbed the photo op. While reporters were taking notes and photos of McKinny, Conlon took her hand and said, “Welcome to Minnesota.”

But McKinny’s moments of fame didn’t last long. The media horde asked her a few questions and then moved on.

Palin lookalike Lori McKinny is quickly surrounded by the media during the book signing.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Palin look-alike Lori McKinny is quickly surrounded by the media before the book signing.

What they learned about the Palin look-alike was straightforward: “This is just the way I look.” She also said she had her “Palin” spectacles before the governor did.

She said she’d never heard of Palin until she burst upon the scene in the summer of 2008.

“All of a sudden, my phone started ringing,” McKinny said. “People were saying, ‘You look just like her.’ ”

Even her 4-year-old twin grandsons can’t differentiate between them, she said.

“When she comes on TV, they say, ‘Nana, that’s you on TV!”

Fortunately, McKinny said, her conservative politics dovetail with Palin’s, and mostly, it’s fun to be a look-alike.

“When I’m out for dinner, most people come up and say, ‘You look just like her’ and then they tell me how much they like her,” McKinny said. “But sometimes there’ll be a drunk Democrat who says, ‘If you’re trying to look like her, you shouldn’t. She’s terrible.’ ”

Security guards weren’t impressed by McKinny’s look-alike status. Moments before the real Palin arrived, they were clearing the areas along barricades.

“You can’t stand here. Move on, move on,” they had told her.

They approached McKinny’s friend, Reinke.

“You have to move on, now,” they said.

I tried to help out.

“She’s with her,” I said, pointing to McKinny.

For a moment, the young security guard did a double-take when she looked at McKinny. But she recovered quickly.

“All of you, move on,” she said.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/07/2009 - 03:14 pm.

    “This is how pack journalism works…”

    I was hoping for an explanation of why the story was done at all. What next, arriving early for opening night of the next Twilight movie?

  2. Submitted by Ed Stych on 12/07/2009 - 04:36 pm.

    I’m not sure there’s anyone better than Doug Grow at describing a scene. And I appreciate that he didn’t insert personal politics into this story.

    And if Brian Simon doesn’t understand why this story was written, then he’s not paying attention. Sarah Palin won’t be president, but she represents many tens of millions of Americans. She really is a breath of fresh air, and she is to conservatives what Obama was to liberals a year ago.

  3. Submitted by Bill Krause on 12/07/2009 - 05:18 pm.

    “Virtually everyone in the orange, teal and magenta lines was white.”

    What is that supposed to imply?

    Were non-whites excluded from this event?

  4. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 12/07/2009 - 06:41 pm.

    This was a good read, Doug. I’m not sure why, but the woman really draws them in. But characters like her make boring politics fun.

  5. Submitted by Katie Johnson on 12/08/2009 - 06:24 am.

    How does Doug’s description of the fans’ race imply that non-whites were excluded? It simply means most of the people in line – her fans – were white. That’s just a straightforward observation.

  6. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/08/2009 - 08:29 am.

    Is it true that Palin’s book said that anyone with more than a GED is part of the urban elite?

    To say that she “wrote” this book is a joke. I imagine she dictated some random thoughts to someone with writing skills who put it into a coherent package. I’d like to see what she could really write, especially with the spell check turned off.

    William Buckley to Sarah Palin, the Republican slide into oblivion.

  7. Submitted by David Schimelpfenig on 12/08/2009 - 09:23 am.

    The comment in the story about race is simply the media types attempts to say conservatives are racists. Is anyone surprised that in MN where the minorities only comprise 8.8% of the population that few minorities are present? Any event in MN will have few minorities. The media ignores the reality of the “progressives” real racism of condescension and extermination that has been proceeding for a century. “Progressives” in general think most people are idiots and need them, through the force of government to structure their lives. The progressive moment is eugenic in nature, elimination of minorities through abortions and marginalization/oppression through government welfare programs. The “progressives” were strong supporters of the nazi’s and implemented forced sterilizations of poor/minorities right her in America. In fact Hitler got most of his ideas from the American eugenics movement. 80% of abortion clinics are in minority neighborhood. Social workers after the passing of welfare went door to door in minority areas recruiting people to go on welfare. Unmarried black mothers was at 24% prewelfare, it now stands at 80%.
    If the media bothered to pay attention to history they might be able to tell you who the real racists are. But they ignore history for their love of socialism.

  8. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/08/2009 - 10:37 am.

    So, David, all those skinheads I see on tv from time to time and their nazi cousins, they are Democrats? I point out that you hold a minority opinion but you might think I’m trying to exterminate you.

  9. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/08/2009 - 11:40 am.

    Ed Stych writes
    “And if Brian Simon doesn’t understand why this story was written, then he’s not paying attention.”

    Ed, I didn’t see an answer to the question of why a niche / boutique media outlet that purports to be “a thoughful approach to the news” is covering a story that has been covered by nearly every media outlet, nationwide. Did Mr Grow add something to the story that wasn’t covered by any of the hundreds of other media outlets that have covered this book tour for the last two weeks? I didn’t notice anything, unless you count finding a doppelganger amongst the crowd. That’s hardly the kind of reporting that will draw me to MN Post for news over other outlets.

  10. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 12/08/2009 - 12:19 pm.

    Maybe Mr. Schimelpfenig can explain why this former Republican left his party after Richard Nixon shamelessly huckstered/hustled racist southern Democrats into the Republican party. I thought I left because the party of Lincoln had become the party of racism, but maybe he understands my motivations better than I do.

    The 21st century Republican party is openly racist, xenophobic and homophobic, and they have more than a few gender issues they need to attend to. They are notoriously close-minded and incessantly attack others for not living their lives by modern Republican/Christianist standards.

    Sarah Palin’s dad is being widely quoted this week as saying that Sarah didn’t like going to college in Hawaii because there were too many non-whites. In that context how could a real reporter NOT take note of the all-white crowd?

  11. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 12/08/2009 - 12:54 pm.

    Incredible, the putrid stew of fantasies, lies, and exaggerations included in Schimelpfenig’s column. Progressivism is “Eugenics in nature.” There was a time, in fact, when a few people–and I doubt they were all “progressives,” supported the dreadful idea of eugenics (a few are still wandering around, but they are all Conservatives).
    Progressives were the supporters of nazis (note spelling)? “And implemented forced sterilizations of poor/minorities right her [sic] here in America. In fact Hitler got most of his ideas from the American eugenics movement.
    Preposterous. This is what living in an alternative world takes you.

  12. Submitted by David Schimelpfenig on 12/08/2009 - 07:26 pm.

    Bill, Brian, & Ginny a good read of history would be enlightening to you. I’ll bet none of you can say who filibustered the civil rights act either? That would be the “progressive” democrats.

    Bill, one of those “skinhead” types is sitting senator Democrat Byrd. The democrat party started the KKK and continues the oppression with abortions, affirmative action, and welfare. Facts are a funny thing aren’t they?

    Then there’s your boy Hitler, vegetarian, econut, and socialist.
    “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.” (Speech of May 1, 1927. Quoted by Toland, 1976, p. 306) Sounds a lot like Obama and his Czars now doesn’t it?

    We shouldn’t leave out the “progressive” place of worship, Planned Parenthood.

    Margaret Sanger as the founder of Planned Parenthood, but she also was a strong advocate of eugenics. In a 1939 letter, she wrote the following:

    We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.

    As an advocate of birth control I wish … to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the “unfit” and the “fit,” admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feebleminded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation. (“The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda”; Birth Control Review, October 1921; page 5.)

    Here is a few more links to combat ignorance.

  13. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/09/2009 - 06:57 am.

    Herr Schimelpfenig, you can distort present reality all you want by citing things that happened 70-100 years or more ago. I don’t dispute your quotes. I don’t dispute the fact that the south voted democrat up until the time of Nixon.

    But it is clearly true to me that the klan votes Republican. Doesn’t make every Republican a racist, but that party does use language and take positions that appeal to the redneck racist element in our country.

    To compare Obama to Hitler shows how lost you are. Facts aren’t nearly as funny as the foolish ways that people use them. Heil!

  14. Submitted by David Schimelpfenig on 12/09/2009 - 10:06 pm.

    Bill your attempt to link anyone that disagrees with you as a racist is rather juvenile and pathetic.
    Democrat or republican both parties are on the same socialist disaster course only the republicans walk while the dems are on a jet plane. Either spells disaster for America, freedom, and the world.
    The same policies exist in the current “progressives”.
    Banning DDT despite all science resulted in 50 million deaths. WHO removed the ban finally 3 years ago to slow the rampant death caused the the progressive death cult.
    80% of all abortion clinics are located in minority neighborhoods and Sanger is still a hero to the democrats.
    The global warming hoax and biofuels yet another genocidal attack on the third world. Nearly a billion people entering starvation poverty so that the global warming cult religion can issue smug alerts and pat themselves on the back for saving the planet that doesn’t need saving.

    If you want to see a racist, just look at Obama and his minister.

  15. Submitted by Rita Sanchez on 12/10/2009 - 05:20 pm.

    One of the commenters said that to say that she “wrote” the book is a joke. Hmmm. I think Governor Palin did give credit to someone who helped write the book. No one is reporting on the fact that Obama did not write “Dreams of My Father” . In fact the author of the recent book on Michelle and Obama, had access to and interviewed hundreds of people who knew them in the past, and has stated unequivocably that the Weatherman domestic terrorist Bill Ayres actually wrote the book to help Obama out. Yet Obama was praised for his billiant writing in the book. The Associated Press (AP) dedicated something like 11 reporters to fact check Palin’s 400 page book, but zero reporters to fact check Obama’s book, and certainly Obama was not vetted by the media. What Palin has had to put up with! The AP has only 1 reporter assigened to review the two 2000 page Health Care bill that will rob Americans of their liberty, privacy and free choice. Where is the press when we need them?

  16. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 12/11/2009 - 03:20 pm.

    I’d like to thank MinnPost for making it painfully clear that when your only restriction on comments is vulgarity and obscenity, liars are given free rein to crap in the comment threads.

    There is not one shred of proof that Obama had a ghost writer. The factless assertions of plagiarism come from professional character assassins like Christopher Andersen and Jack Cashill. Andersen is the writer who has most directly asserted that Ayers ghost wrote Dreams of My Father, but does not offer any proof, just innuendo-based assertions. Cashill is a rabid partisan, and has signed on to every attack on Obama issued to date.

    I’m not thrilled by Obama’s presidency to date, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to start buying into unsourced allegations that never once offer even a meager scrap of fact to back up their libelous claims. This is talk radio Republicanism, and if our empire fails, it will be because the yammerings of Rush and Beck have replaced thoughtful discourse.

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